Detroit Lions Hall of Fame Players: A Complete History

Andrew Harner

Lions Hall of Famers Lem Barney, Joe Schmidt and Barry Sanders (left to right) stand on the field before a 2019 game at Ford Field.© Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

How Many Lions Are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

As one of the oldest teams in the NFL, the Lions have developed some of the best players to ever grace a professional football field. As of the 2020 induction ceremonies, there are 21 individuals enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, who spent at least one season with the Lions (6% of the 346 individuals inducted). Among them, 15 played a significant portion of their career in Detroit.

Included on this list are one of the greatest running backs to ever play in the NFL, four standout defenders who played at least 11 seasons with the Lions and numerous players who helped lead Detroit to three championships during the 1950s. With titles in 1952, '53 and '57, that decade proved to be the greatest dynasty in Lions history. Seven of Detroit's Hall of Famers were prominently featured on those championship teams.

What follows is a list of every Hall of Famer who has played at least one game for the Lions. The players are listed in order by the number of seasons each spent in the Motor City.

Including his coaching years, linebacker Joe Schmidt is the longest-tenured member among Lions Hall of Famers. He won championships in 1953 and ‘57.© Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Joe Schmidt

  • Position: Linebacker, coach
  • College: Pittsburgh
  • Seasons Played: 195365
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195365
  • Seasons Coached: 196672
  • Seasons Coached With the Lions: 196672
  • Year Inducted: 1973
  • Stats: 24 interceptions, 3 defensive TDs
  • Awards: NFL Defensive MVP (1960, '63), NFL Lineman of the Year ('57)
  • Legacy Honors: NFL Top 100 All-Time Team, NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
  • All-Pro: 195462
  • Pro Bowl: 195463

During a 13-year playing career with the Lions, Joe Schmidt was among the best defenders in the league and revolutionized the middle linebacker position. With 10 straight Pro Bowl and nine straight All-Pro selections, Schmidt burst onto the scenedespite being selected as a seventh-round draft pick. He didn't miss a start throughout his first seven years in the league, and his prowess in the middle of the field helped the Lions finish in the top three in scoring defense in three of those seasons. Detroit also won a pair of NFL championships during his tenure.

In 1955, Schmidt tied the NFL record by recovering eight fumbles lost by his opponents (the mark was broken in 1963), and his 17 career fumble recoveries are tied for the most in team history among defenders. He set his career high with six interceptions in 1958, a nice continuation of his postseason success in 1957. That year, he intercepted a pass in playoff wins over the 49ers and the Browns, which helped bring the Lions their third NFL championship in six seasons.

Schmidt sustained a shoulder injury in the 1960 preseason, which forced him to miss the first games in his career. Once he came back to the field, however, he returned an interception for the first touchdown of his career. Over his final five seasons, Schmidt started every game of a campaign three times, and in both 1961 and '65 he had four interceptions.

He announced his retirement in March 1966 and joined the team as an assistant coach. The next season, he was promoted to head coach and was involved in the drafting of multiple future Hall of Famers. Schmidt had a 43-34-7 record in Detroit and led the team to the playoffs in 1970. By the end of his coaching tenure in 1972, he had served the Lions for 20 straight seasons.

Former Lions defensive back Dick LeBeau served as the defensive coordinator for the Titans during the 2017 season. Between his playing days with the Lions and his seasons as a coach, LeBeau spent 59 years in the NFL.© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dick LeBeau

  • Position: Defensive back
  • College: Ohio State
  • Seasons Played: 195972
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195972
  • Year Inducted: 2010
  • Stats: 62 interceptions, 3 TDs
  • All-Pro: 196465, '70
  • Pro Bowl: 196466

Dick LeBeau spent 14 seasons as a defensive back for the Lions. Despite season after season of strong play, he is remembered just as much for his time as a defensive coordinator. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Browns but was cut in the preseason. LeBeau then came to Detroit, and by 1960, he was slated in the starting lineup and rarely missed time until he retired in 1972.

LeBeau became a ball-hawking defensive back, intercepting at least four passes in all but one season between 1960 and '71which included a career-high nine in 1970. His career total of 62 is tied for 10th in NFL history and stands as the team's all-time record. In four separate seasons, he snared a pair of interceptions in two different games.

Following his playing career, LeBeau revolutionized NFL defenses by perfecting the zone blitz as a defensive coordinator. When he retired from coaching in 2017, he had spent 59 straight seasons in the NFL.

Alex Karras is interviewed by a reporter from the Detroit Free Press in 1957. He is the most recent Lions player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.© Dick Tripp, Detroit Free Press

Alex Karras

  • Position: Defensive tackle
  • College: Iowa
  • Seasons Played: 195862, 196470
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195862, 196470
  • Year Inducted: 2020
  • Stats: 16 fumble recoveries, 4 interceptions
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 196061, 65
  • Pro Bowl: 196062, 65

Many Detroit fans long asked the question, "Is Alex Karras in the Hall of Fame?" As of 2020, they can finally answer that question with a resounding, "Yes!" He was inducted as part of that year's Centennial Class.

Karras had all the qualifications expected of a Hall of Famer, but some off-the-field concerns are believed to have left him out of Canton for so many years. He was suspended in 1963 due to gamblinga negative mark on his stellar on-field record that saw him make four Pro Bowls and earn seven first- or second-team All-Pro selections from the Associated Press.

He was credited with 97.5 sacks in his 12-year career, even though sacks werent an official statistic when he played.

Lions Hall of Famer Lem Barney arrives at the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lem Barney

  • Position: Cornerback
  • College: Jackson State
  • Seasons Played: 196777
  • Seasons With the Lions: 196777
  • Year Inducted: 1992
  • Stats: 56 interceptions, 10 total TDs
  • Awards: Defensive Rookie of the Year (1967)
  • Legacy Honors: Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 196869
  • Pro Bowl: 196769, 197273, 197576

Throughout 11 seasons with the Lions, Lem Barney was among the best defensive backs in the NFL. With multiple interceptions every season, he is remembered as one of the best defenders in Lions history. He is also tied for 18th all-time in NFL history for career interceptions.

Barney was a second-round draft pick in 1967, and he made an immediate contribution for the Lions. He intercepted Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr in the first quarter of his debut and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. After four weeks, Barney already had six interceptions for the 3-0-1 Lions. He'd cool considerably in the middle of the season, but then he electrified a home crowd with three interceptions in the season finale. That showing gave him an NFL-leading 10 interceptions on the season, which he returned for a league-best 232 yards and three touchdowns. Those touchdowns remain a single-season franchise record.

In 1968, Barney led the NFL with five fumble recoveries and also added another seven interceptions. Over the next two seasons, he had 15 more interceptions. By the end of his career, he had snared 56 interceptions, which ranks second on Detroit's all-time list. His 1,077 interception return yards and seven touchdowns are both franchise records, and he is also tied for the all-time team lead among defenders with 17 career fumble recoveries.

Yale Lary

  • Position: Defensive back, punter
  • College: Texas A&M
  • Seasons Played: 195253, 195664
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195253, 195664
  • Year Inducted: 1979
  • Stats: 50 interceptions, 503 punts for 22,279 yards
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 195659, 196263
  • Pro Bowl: 1953, 195662, '64

After being taken as a third-round draft pick in 1952, Yale Lary was a dependable defender and punter for the Lions for more than a decade. Other than missing two seasons due to military service, he played in all but seven games throughout an 11-year career. He grabbed at least two interceptions every season as a safety, while doubling as the team's punter. He led the NFL in punting average in three seasons.

In his first two seasons, he helped the Lions win the NFL championship, and he picked up a third title in 1957. In each of those seasons, Detroit defeated Cleveland for the league crown. Following his military service in 1954 and '55, Lary returned to the Lions and had his best season. In 1956, he intercepted a career-high eight passes and returned one for a 73-yard touchdown. He was joined in the defensive backfield at times throughout his career by three other Hall of Famers.

Known as one of the greatest punters in the history of the league, Lary had an average of 44.3 yards on 503 punts, and he booted a punt at least 60 yards in all but two seasons. He's ranked 32nd all-time in punting average, but when he retired, he was second only to fellow Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh. Among players whose careers began before 2000, he is ranked third. Lary led the NFL in punting average in 1959 (47.1 yards per punt), '61 (48.4 YPP) and '63 (48.9 YPP). His mark from 1963 is tied for the 16th-best mark in NFL history.

Lou Creekmur was a standout offensive lineman who helped the Lions claim NFL championships in 1952, ‘53 and ‘57.© Detroit Free Press

Lou Creekmur

  • Position: Offensive lineman
  • College: William & Mary
  • Seasons Played: 195059
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195059
  • Year Inducted: 1996
  • Legacy Honors: Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 195157
  • Pro Bowl: 195057

Lou Creekmur was nothing if not durable. He happened to be a pretty good offensive lineman, too. As a sturdy force up front for the Lions during the 1950s, Creekmur never missed a practice. Nor did he ever miss a preseason, regular season or postseason game during the first nine years of his 10-year careerall while helping Detroit win championships in 1952, '53 and '57. Despite that and his many All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, it took 32 years for him to finally win election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Creekmur began his career as an offensive guard, but he switched to left tackle after two seasons and dominated that side of the line for many years. He was a 26th-round draft pick of the Eagles in 1948, but Creekmur elected to keep playing in college. The Lions acquired his rights in 1950, and they watched him block for several high-flying offenses. From 1950 to '57, the Lions never finished worse than fifth in total offense, and only twice did they finish outside the top five in scoring offense.

Toward the end of 1958, Creekmur announced he would be retiring at the end of what would become only the second losing season during his career. When the Lions began the 1959 season at 04, they summoned Creekmurwho returned for the final eight games of the season to help salvage a 3-8-1 record.

Barry Sanders carries the ball during a game against the Washington Football Team. He is the most prolific running back in franchise history with 15,269 rushing yards.© H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY, USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Barry Sanders

  • Position: Running back
  • College: Oklahoma State
  • Seasons Played: 198998
  • Seasons With the Lions: 198998
  • Year Inducted: 2004
  • Stats: 15,269 rushing yards, 99 TDs
  • Awards: Offensive Rookie of the Year (1989), NFL MVP (1997), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1994, '97), Bert Bell Award (1991, '97)
  • Legacy Honors: NFL All-Time 100 Team, NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 198998
  • Pro Bowl: 198998

Sanders burst onto the scene as a rookie after being selected with the third pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Despite missing training camp due to a contract dispute, he finished 11 yards shy of the league rushing title to win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Sanders closed his season with a 158-yard, three-touchdown showing against the Falcons. He'd lead the league in rushing in 1990 and then have a breakout season in '91.

Sanders eclipsed the 1,500-yard rushing mark for the first time that season while adding a 220-yard, four-touchdown game against the Vikings. Detroit won 12 games in 1991, and Sanders helped the Lions to their only playoff victory since 1957. He'd again lead the league in rushing in 1994, '96 and '97, which is when he became the third player in history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season. He had 10 games with at least 100 yards in 1994, and that included a career-high 237-yard effort against the Buccaneers.

The best season during Sanders's career was his MVP season of 1997. He gained 2,053 yards and rushed for at least 100 yards in the last 14 games of the season to set an NFL record. Included in that stretch were a pair of games with more than 200 yards, and he added 11 touchdowns during the year. It was the fourth straight season for Sanders with at least 1,500 rushing yardsno other player in league history has accomplished the feat. He nearly added a fifth such season when he gained 1,491 yards on a league-high 343 carries in 1998.

Charlie Sanders (88) leaps for a one-handed catch against the Chiefs. Sanders was among the first tight ends to play a significant role in the passing offense.© Detroit Free Press

Charlie Sanders

  • Position: Tight end
  • College: Minnesota
  • Seasons Played: 196877
  • Seasons With the Lions: 196877
  • Year Inducted: 2007
  • Stats: 4,817 receiving yards, 31 TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 196971
  • Pro Bowl: 196871, 197476

In 1968, in a third-round draft selection, the Lions found a player who would be their starting tight end for the next 10 seasons: Charlie Sanders. As a dependable blocker and adequate receiver, Sanders was among the NFL's premier players at his position throughout the 1970s. It's likely he would have played longer, but a severe knee injury ended his career before the 1977 season. After retirement, he stayed with the Lions as a scout, coach and broadcaster.

Playing in an era when tight ends were relied on as blockers more so than pass catchers, Sanders helped evolve the position with at least 40 catches in each of his first three seasons. He retired with the team record of 336 receptions, which wasn't broken until Herman Moore eclipsed the mark in 1996while being coached by Sanders. He's now seventh all-time in team history, but he still has the most receptions, yards (4,817) and touchdowns (31) by a Detroit tight end.

Sanders was the only rookie selected to the Pro Bowl for the 1968 season, and he'd go on to make six more appearances. He closed his rookie season with a career-high 10 catches for 133 yards against the Washington Football Team, and in 1974 he had his career-best yardage total of 146 in a win over the Packers.

Bobby Layne is among the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the Lions. He was the offensive leader on three NFL championship teams.© Detroit Free Press

Bobby Layne

  • Position: Quarterback
  • College: Texas
  • Seasons Played: 194862
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195058
  • Year Inducted: 1967
  • Stats: 26,768 passing yards, 196 TDs
  • Awards: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions, Lions No. 22 Retired
  • All-Pro: 1952, '54, '56, 195859
  • Pro Bowl: 195153, '56, 195859

Bobby Layne played for four different NFL teams, but many of his best seasons came during the nine years he spent with the Lions. There was, however, a lot of travel in the two years leading up to his acquisition. Originally drafted by the Steelers in 1948, Layne was then traded to the Bears after the draft. Going into the 1949 season, he was sent to the Bulldogs. When he finally arrived in Detroit in 1950, Layne began to develop into a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Layne's passing offenses finished no worse than sixth in the NFL standings while in Detroit, and he helped engineer NFL championship wins in 1952, '53 and '57 (though he did not play in the 1957 title game due to a broken leg). In 1950, Layne led the NFL in passing attempts and yardage, and during the next season, he paced the NFL in attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. He was steady over the next five seasons, keeping his passing yards between 1,800 and 2,100 each year.

In 1950, Layne threw for 374 yards against the Bears for his top passing performance with the Lions. During his time in Detroit, Layne had three games where he threw four touchdowns. He had a 53-29-2 record with the Lions, and his 15,710 passing yards and 118 touchdowns stood as team records for more than 50 years. Layne struggled in the postseason, however, throwing 12 interceptions to one touchdown, but he did secure a 31 record.

Alex Wojciechowicz

  • Position: Center, linebacker
  • College: Fordham
  • Seasons Played: 193850
  • Seasons With the Lions: 193846
  • Year Inducted: 1968
  • Stats: 19 interceptions
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1940s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions, Polish Sports Hall of Fame (1975)
  • All-Pro: 1939, '44

Alex Wojciechowicz was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 1938, and he became a regular on the team's offense and defense for the next nine seasons. He played in 86 games for Detroit as a rare two-way player. Defensively as a linebacker, he scored his only career touchdown in 1940 on one of his 14 interceptions with the Lions. Included in that total were seven in 1944, which was Detroits single-season record for several years, and his career total was a franchise record until the 1950s. He also served as the team's center. Because of his two-way status, he was known as Iron Man.

He was released with two other Lions players following a 03 start to the 1946 season, and he was purchased by the Eagles two days later. Wojciechowicz, who became exclusively a linebacker, went on to win a pair of NFL championships in Philadelphia.

Dutch Clark was a player-coach for the Lions in 1937 and '38.© Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press

Dutch Clark

  • Position: All-Purpose
  • College: Colorado College
  • Seasons Played: 193132, 193438
  • Seasons With the Lions: 193132, 193438
  • Seasons Coached: 193742, '49
  • Seasons Coached With the Lions: 193738
  • Year Inducted: 1963
  • Stats: 1,507 passing yards, 2,772 rushing yards, 36 rushing TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL Top 100 All-Time Team, NFL 1930s All-Decade Team, Associated Press Player of the Decade (1930s), Pride of the Lions, Lions No. 7 Retired
  • All-Pro: 193132, 193437

Dutch Clark, also known as "The Flying Dutchman," was among the most popular football figures in the 1930s. As a versatile offensive force, Clark regularly scored touchdowns as a quarterback, running back and receiver. Not only that, he was a league-leading kicker in several seasons. While the Lions do not officially retire numbers, there was a ceremony held on Oct. 15, 1939, to honor Clarkand no one has worn his No. 7 since.

Clark's NFL career began when he was granted a leave from his coaching duties at Colorado College in 1931. In two seasons with the Portsmouth Spartanswho relocated to Detroit and became the Lions in 1934Clark became an All-Pro talent, but he elected to return to college coaching at the Colorado School of Mines in 1933. He returned to the NFL with the Lions right before the 1934 season and became a superstar. He led the league in rushing touchdowns in 1934, '36 and '37. In 1935 and '36, he paced the NFL in total points scored, and he helped lead the Lions to the 1935 league championship.

Clark played 75 games and amassed 2,772 rushing yards, 1,507 passing yards and 341 receiving yards. He scored 42 total touchdowns and kicked 72 extra points and 15 field goals for 369 career points. In two seasons as player-coach of the Lions, Clark had back-to-back 74 records in 1937 and 38. He was one of 11 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fames inaugural induction class.

Jack Christiansen was a defensive back and return specialist for the Lions throughout an eight-year career.© Detroit Free Press

Jack Christiansen

  • Position: Safety
  • College: Colorado A&M
  • Seasons Played: 195158
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195158
  • Year Inducted: 1970
  • Stats: 46 interceptions, 3 TDs
  • Awards: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 195257
  • Pro Bowl: 195357

Jack Christiansen was a steady hand in the secondary for the Lions after being taken as a sixth-round draft pick in 1951. He worked his way into the starting lineup as a rookie, and he became one of several Hall of Famers in Detroit's defense to hold down opponents in the 1950s. He led the league in interceptions twice, and he held the NFL record with eight punt returns for touchdowns when he retired in 1958. He remains tied for fourth all-time.

As a rookie, Christiansen established a still-standing NFL record by returning four punts for touchdowns, and three other players have since accomplished the same feat. Christiansen needed just two games to establish the record, scoring twice against both the Rams and the Packers. After helping the Lions win the NFL championship in 1952, Christiansen had a breakout season the following year. He matched the franchise record with 12 interceptions and added three fumble recoveries on the way to another championship.

Christiansen remained a standout and broke out again in 1957, when he led the league with 10 interceptions and picked up his third championship with the Lions. He briefly held the franchise's career record for interceptions with 46, and he is now fourth all-time. Following his retirement in 1958, he coached in the NFL for 25 years.

Dick "Night Train" Lane

  • Position: Cornerback
  • College: Scottsbluff J.C.
  • Seasons Played: 195265
  • Seasons With the Lions: 196065
  • Year Inducted: 1974
  • Stats: 68 interceptions, 6 TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 100 Team, NFL 75th Anniversary Team, NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 1955, '56, '58, 196163
  • Pro Bowl: 195456, '58, 196062

After establishing himself as one of the best defensive players in the NFL, Dick "Night Train" Lane came to the Lions to close his career. Lane was traded to the Lions in the 1960 preseason, and he quickly established the fans' trust by racking up four interceptions through six games, making him a favorite for six seasons. A major knee injury took its toll over the last two years of his careerbut even today, he is still regarded as one of the best defensive backs ever to play professionally.

In his first season with the Lions, Lane intercepted Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas and returned it for an 80-yard touchdown. Two games later, he picked off two passes against the 49ers. In the opening games of the 1961 and '63 seasons, Lane had two interceptions to set each of those campaigns into positive motion. After 20 interceptions in four seasons, Lane's career was derailed starting in 1964. He'd play just seven games each of the next two seasons after a knee injury.

Known as one of the most ferocious tacklers of all time, Lane was the only Lions' player represented on the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team, which was revealed in 1994. In 66 games with the Lions, he intercepted 21 passes and returned them 272 yards. He also recovered four fumbles. Following his retirement, he remained with the team through 1972 as a special assistant to Lions owner William Clay Ford.

Running back Doak Walker had a short career, but he was an offensive weapon for two Lions championship teams.© Detroit Free Press

Doak Walker

  • Position: Running back, kicker
  • College: SMU
  • Seasons Played: 195055
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195055
  • Year Inducted: 1986
  • Stats: 1,520 rushing yards, 2,539 receiving yards, 534 points
  • Awards: Rookie of the Year (1950)
  • Legacy Honors: Pride of the Lions, Lions No. 37 Retired
  • All-Pro: 195051, 195354
  • Pro Bowl: 195051, 195355

Doak Walker did a little bit of everything for the Lions. As an All-American and Heisman Trophy winner as a running back at SMU, Walker came into the NFL with high expectations. And while his statistics weren't necessarily eye-popping, his versatility made him a valuable commodity to a team that would win a pair of NFL championships during his tenure.

As a rookie, Walker had 920 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns, while adding eight field goals and 38 extra points. By involving himself in so many aspects of the game, he helped the Lions finish in the top five in total offense every season he played and in scoring offense in all but the 1955 season. He led the league with 43 extra points in both 1951 and '54, and he booted a career-high 12 field goals in 1953.

He retired after just six seasons to pursue other business interests, and he was immediately honored by the team. His jersey number became the second ever to be unofficially retired by the Lions, but he didn't make it to the Hall of Fame for three more decades.

Bust of Lions legend Dick Stanfel, 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dick Stanfel

  • Position: Offensive guard
  • College: San Francisco
  • Seasons Played: 195258
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195255
  • Year Inducted: 2016
  • Awards: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, Pride of the Lions
  • All-Pro: 195354, 195658
  • Pro Bowl: 1953, 195558

Dick Stanfel played the first four years of a seven-year career with the Lions, helping pave the way for a prolific offense that won a pair of NFL championships. The offensive guard was selected with the 19th pick of the 1951 NFL Draft, but he was unable to play that season due to a knee injury he sustained in a college All-Star game. Once he recovered, however, Stanfel became one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.

He helped the 1952 Lions to the NFL championship by blocking for the NFL's No. 2 offense. The following season, he was named the team's MVP as the Lions held the No. 3 rushing attack on the way to a second straight title. He missed several games in 1954 due to a back injury but still contributed to the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense. The next year, he sustained a spinal injury as the Lions fell to their first losing season since 1949, and he was traded to the Washington Football Team. He made three straight Pro Bowl appearances in Washington and later spent 31 seasons as an assistant coach.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Curley Culp waves to the crowd during the Grand Parade before the 2019 enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio.© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Famers Who Made a Stop With the Lions

While the bulk of the Hall of Famers who represent the Lions played most of their career with the team, several other legends only made quick stops in Detroit. The six players who spent three or fewer seasons with the Lions are featured below.

Bill Dudley

  • Position: Running back
  • College: Virginia
  • Seasons Played: 1942, 194551, '53
  • Seasons With the Lions: 194749
  • Year Inducted: 1966
  • Stats: 36 offensive TDs, 23 interceptions
  • Awards: NFL MVP (1946)
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1940s All-Decade Team
  • All-Pro: 1942, '46
  • Pro Bowl: 195051

Bill Dudley came to the Lions via a trade with the Steelers, and he became the highest-paid player in Detroit history. His only full season in Detroit came in 1949, but during his tenure he had 801 rushing yards, 775 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. Additionally, he played special teams as a punter, kicker and return man. On defense, he had seven fumble recoveries, six interceptions and a touchdown. He spent three seasons with the Steelers before coming to the Lions, and he finished his career with three seasons for the Washington Football Team.

John Henry Johnson

  • Position: Running back
  • College: Arizona State, St. Mary's (Calif.)
  • Seasons Played: 195466
  • Seasons With the Lions: 195759
  • Year Inducted: 1987
  • Stats: 6,803 rushing yards, 48 rushing TDs
  • All-Pro: 1962
  • Pro Bowl: 1954, 196264

The Lions traded for John Henry Johnson prior to the 1957 season, and he made himself a player to remember by helping Detroit win an NFL championship. Injuries would ail him in 1958, and he faced team discipline in 1959 after missing a team plane. In three seasons with the Lions, he rushed for 1,145 yards and seven touchdowns. He was traded to the Steelers after the 1959 season.

Curley Culp

  • Position: Defensive tackle
  • College: Arizona State
  • Seasons Played: 196881
  • Seasons With the Lions: 198081
  • Year Inducted: 2013
  • Stats: 13 fumble recoveries
  • Awards: NEA NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1975)
  • All-Pro: 1975, 197879
  • Pro Bowl: 1969, '71, 197578

The Lions signed Curley Culp in 1980 after he was waived by the Houston Oilers and the Washington Football Team during the season to bolster a defensive line that was hoping to lead Detroit into the playoffs. The Lions fell one win shy of the division title, and Culp would retire after a handful of games in 1981. He played just five total games with the Lions after building a reputation as one of the NFLs strongest defensive lineman with the Chiefs and the Oilers.

Frank Gatski

  • Position: Center
  • College: Marshall, Auburn
  • Seasons Played: 194657
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1957
  • Year Inducted: 1985
  • All-Pro: 195255
  • Pro Bowl: 1956

Frank Gatski knew how to win championships. He joined the Lions in 1957 after picking up seven titles with the Browns from 1946 to 56. He won another in 1957by beating the Browns. Gatski was a true ironman, having played every game of his career and never missing a practice.

Ollie Matson

  • Position: Running back
  • College: San Francisco
  • Seasons Played: 1952, 195466
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1963
  • Year Inducted: 1972
  • Stats: 5,173 rushing yards, 40 rushing TDs, 23 receiving TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
  • All-Pro: 1952, 195457
  • Pro Bowl: 1952, 195458

Ollie Matson played one season with the Lions, but he didn't leave a lasting mark on franchise history. In eight games, he gained just 40 offensive yards and had 61 yards returning kicks, leaving 1963 as the only year in his career in which he didn't score a touchdown. Matson also played for the Cardinals, Rams and Eagles.

Hugh McElhenny

  • Position: Running back
  • College: Washington
  • Seasons Played: 195264
  • Seasons With the Lions: 1964
  • Year Inducted: 1970
  • Stats: 5,281 rushing yards, 38 rushing TDs, 20 receiving TDs
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
  • All-Pro: 195254, 195657
  • Pro Bowl: 195253, 195658, '61

Hugh McElhenny closed a Hall of Fame career with one season for the Lions. He was most known for his exploits with the 49ers; while in Detroit he only appeared in eight games. During those few games, he gained 64 offensive yards and had 72 return yards.

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I was always a fan of Dick Lebeau’s defenses. Barry was just on a whole other planet

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