Detroit Lions Gridiron Heroes
Photo courtesy of the NFL Hall of Fame
The native Texan and product of Texas A&M was a superlative defensive back from 1956 to 1964, with time out for a tour of Army duty in 1954-55. Yale Lary became one of the best punters in the game's history upon his return from the service. He was a key contributor for the Lions as they claimed three NFL World Championships in 1952, 1953 and 1957.
Lary played in the defensive backfield alongside Jack Christiansen and Jim David on "Chris' Crew," then stabilized Detroit defenses in the early 1960s when the Lions were one of the best pro football teams of that era. The position he played is known today as free safety, the center fielder of the defensive backfield. He made 50 career interceptions, and only recently, with expanded schedules allowing for more opportunities per season, has Lary been shoved off the list of top 20 all-time interceptors.
He remains third on the Lions list, and his 787 career return yards is No. 2 in Detroit history behind Lem Barney's 1,015. He not only excelled as a safety, but he was an exceptional punter. Lary won punting titles in 1959, 1961 and 1963, missing another one in 1962 by just 3.6 inches. A year he didn't win, 1960, Detroit opponents averaged less than one yard per return on his punts. From the end zone, Lary could consistently punt past midfield with enough hang time to let coverage get down and do its work.
Once, Lary had a string of six games and 32 punts with no returns and he had just four blocked of 503 in his career. Lary returned kickoffs in 1952-53 and 1956, scored three times on punt returns (longest: 74 yards in 1953), was named All-NFL four times and played in nine Pro Bowls. Lary was also a member of the All-Decade Team of the 1950s. The Lions selected Lary in the third round of the 1952 NFL Draft.
Lary's Career Lions' Stats
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