It’s true to say that throughout the years of the Detroit Lions being a team in the NFL (since 1930, by the way), that the team has had a selection of top-class players on its roster. Yet, some of them have stood out in a much more exceptional way than others. So, here we look at five of the very best players to have been signed up to the Lions team throughout the years.
Dutch Clark (1931 – 1938)
One of the originals for the Lions, Dutch Clark went by the nicknames of the Flying Dutchman and the Old Master. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 as part of its inaugural class, and then the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. The Colorado native played football, basketball and baseball during his time at college in the state before moving on to the Lions in ’31. During his time there, he was a six-time first team All-Pro, acquired 3 NFL rushing titles, 2 MVPs and was the named the best player of the 1930s.
Calvin Johnson (2007 – 2015)
Performing as wide receiver for the Lions from 2007 and going by the nickname of the Megatron thanks to his rare combination of size, catching ability, speed, strength and leaping ability, Calvin Johnson proved to be one of the Detroit team’s greatest acquisitions. In 2012, he broke the single season record of Jerry Rice by acquiring 1,848 receiving yards, finishing the whole 2012 season with 1,964 yards in total. Johnson announced his retirement from the NFL after nine seasons in 2016, and his 11,619 receiving yards through nine seasons places him in fourth position for such an accolade.
Bobby Layne (1950 – 1958)
As a quarterback for the Detroit Lions, Bobby Layne was active with the team for eight years, having played for the Chicago Bears and New York Bulldogs prior. He would also go on to play for a further four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers after leaving the Lions. He was the starting quarterback for the most successful Lions era in history, earning 3 first-team All-Pro nods. Layne would become a top-5 passer six times in eight years with the Detroit team, too.
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Barry Sanders (1989 – 1998)
The player that some people refer to as the greatest member of the Lions ever, Sanders is number three on the all-time NFL rushing list. He led the league in rushing yards four times over and established himself as being one of the most elusive runners to ever take part in pro football, exerting quickness and agility on the field. Sanders never finished worse than fifth position in rushing yards and he made his retirement in 1999 public by faxing a letter to his hometown newspaper, the Wichita Eagle, stating so.
Wayne Walker (1958 – 1972)
One of the longest serving players on the Lions team, Walker went through 15 seasons with the club as linebacker and placekicker. He also played in three Pro Bowls after being selected by the Detroit team in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL Draft. Walker would go on to play 200 games for the Lions, which remained as an accomplishment for many years until Jason Hanson exceeded that figure many years later.