Detroit Lions Top 50: #14-10 with VIDEO

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13. Yale Lary, P, PR, DB, 1952-1953 1953-1956

Yale Lary is perhaps simultaneously the greatest punter and punt returner in Lions history. And if that wasn’t enough, he was also a Pro Bowl-caliber safety.

He made 50 career interceptions, and only recently (with expanded schedules allowing for more opportunities per season) has Lary been pushed from the top 20 list in NFL career interceptions.

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 the coverage team get downfield and do its work. According to Paul Hornung in 2004, he was the best punter ever.

Lary made nine Pro Bowls in his career (every year except his rookie season and his penultimate one), His body of work put him in the Hall of Fame, which is even more impressive when you consider that he took the 1954 and 1955 seasons off to do a tour in the Army.