Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions
CB Jim David, a member of three Detroit Lions World Championship teams in the 1950s, is one of the greatest players in Lions history. The six-time Pro Bowler (1955-60) roamed in the Lions secondary, often referred to as "Chris’ Crew", for eight seasons (1952-59) after being drafted in the 22nd round of the 1952 NFL Draft out of Colorado A&M. David’s teammates in that secondary included Hall of Famers Jack Christiansen and Yale Lary, and they were also joined by Bob Smith and Karl Karilivacz. He ended his career with 36 interceptions, which still ranks fifth in Lions history, and he recorded a season-high of seven interceptions three times (1952, 1954 and 1956).
David, known as "The Hatchet", was a major contributor to the Lions’ defense that was so instrumental in some of the greatest teams in franchise history, including world title runs in 1952, 1953 and 1957. Standing only 5-11 and weighing a little over 170 pounds, he accrued that nickname in 1953 when, in successive games, he delivered devastating tackle that took future Hall of Famers Y.A. Tittle, San Francisco 49ers quarterback and Tom Fears, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver, out of those games.
"The Hatchet" would forever be connected to David and his legacy. During David’s eight-year career, he played in four World Championship games (1952-54 and 1957). David was once asked what his greatest memory was as a Detroit Lion. Winning championships and the camaraderie of his teammates were at the top of the list. Christiansen, one of David’s former teammates at Colorado A&M and with the Lions, may have summed David up best when he said, "Jim was a first-rate all-around player. He was fast, clever and always surprising us with some shrewd, daring play. But most of all, he is the only ballplayer I can remember who constantly gets up from a really bruising tackle with a smile on his face."
After playing for the Lions, David immediately entered the pro coaching ranks when he joined the Los Angeles Rams’ coaching staff as defensive backs coach from 1960-62. He was the Rams’ chief talent scout in 1963. He then joined Jack Christiansen’s San Francisco 49ers coaching staff, as secondary coach, from 1964-66. In 1967, another former Lions’ teammate and Hall of Famer, Joe Schmidt, hired David to help run the Lions’ defense. He served in that capacity for six seasons from 1967-72. Among the star players he coached was Hall of Famer Lem Barney.
Barney was drafted in 1967, and in David’s first year with the Lions he tutored Barney, who grabbed 10 interceptions that season, all the way to NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. In fact, David presented Barney during his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement in 1992. During his college career, David lettered in both football and baseball at Colorado A&M, and on the gridiron, he played offensive and defensive halfback, linebacker and end. Prior to attending college, he served in the Army as a staff sergeant in the infantry, which included a tour-of-duty in Europe.
David's Career Lions' Stats