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Detroit Lions Gridiron Heroes
Lem Barney CB
Hall of Fame Class: 1992
Jackson State Years with the Lions: 1967-77
Pro Bowls: 7 (1968-70, 73-74, 76-77) Seasons: 11
Lem Barney
Photo courtesy of the NFL Hall of Fame

CB Lem Barney is one of the Lions' all-time great defensive players. "If there was ever anybody better than Lem," Jim David, Barney's former coach, said in 1992 when Barney was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, "I never saw or heard of him. Nobody before or since measured up to him." In 1992, he was the fifth corner to enter the Hall of Fame. After being selected in the second round of the 1967 Draft, Barney made an immediate impact as a rookie.

Barney's legend began with his very first scrimmage. He stepped in front of Gail Cogdill and deflected the first pass of the workout. On the next throw, he leaped over Cogdill to make a one-handed interception. The legend grew larger with his first regular-season game. Starting at left corner against defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay, Barney picked off the first pass Bart Starr threw in his direction and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.

He was the NFL co-leader in interceptions with 10 and set an NFL rookie record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns (one shy of the then all-time NFL record). In the last game of his rookie season, against Minnesota, Barney picked off three passes in one quarter and ran one of them back for a touchdown. He allowed just one touchdown all season and was named Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

In the team record books, he ranks second in interceptions (56), first in interception return yards (1,077) and first in interceptions returned for touchdowns (7). His seven picks for scores are still tied for seventh all-time in NFL history. Barney was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time All-Pro and a member of the 1960s All-Decade Team despite playing only three years in that decade.

Barney was not only a defensive star, but he was also a great kick returner early in his career. He is second on the team's all-time list for punt returns (143) and third in punt return yards (1,312), and he is one of 10 players in team history with two punt returns for touchdowns. He also has a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 94-yard field goal return to his credit. Overall, Barney scored 11 career touchdowns on seven interceptions, two punt returns, one kickoff return and one field goal return. He also recovered 11 opponents' fumbles and doubled as the Lions punter in both 1967 and 1969. Barney was chosen by the Lions in the second round (34th overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft out of Jackson State.

Barney's Career Lions' Stats
YearTmGIntYdsLgTDFR
1967 Det 14 10 232 71t 3 0
1968 Det 14 7 82 62 0 5
1969 Det 13 8 126 32 0 2
1970 Det 13 7 168 49t 2 0
1971 Det 9 3 78 28t 1 2
1972 Det 14 3 88 64 0 1
1973 Det 14 4 130 38 0 3
1974 Det 13 4 61 39 0 0
1975 Det 10 5 23 13 0 1
1976 Det 14 2 62 26 1 1
1977 Det 12 3 27 22 0 2