Allen Park, Mich. – Detroit Lions Pro Football Hall of Famer Yale Lary, 86, passed away earlier today at his home in Fort Worth, Texas.
STATEMENT FROM LIONS OWNER AND CHAIRMAN MARTHA FIRESTONE FORD ON THE PASSING OF YALE LARY
“On behalf of my family and The Detroit Lions, I would like to extend my deepest, personal sympathies to Mary Jane and to his children Yale, Jr. and Nancy Jane on the passing of Yale.
“As his Hall of Fame career indicates, Yale truly was one of our all-time great players and one of the greatest of his generation. As good as he was on the field, he also was a genuinely wonderful person, one whose company and friendship Mr. Ford and I greatly cherished.”
LARY’S HALL OF FAME CAREER
The native Texan and product of Texas A&M was quite productive as both a safety and punter in the NFL where he starred for the Lions for 11 seasons (1952-53, 1956-64). He played an integral part in the Lions claiming three NFL World Championships during the 1950s (1952, 1953 and 1957).
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, Lary’s career honors include nine Pro Bowl appearances (1954, ‘57-63, ’65), the third-most in Lions’ history, and five All-NFL nods. In addition to being named to the All-Decade Team of the 1950s, Lary was a member of the Lions’ 75th Season All-Time Team. In 2009, he was included in the inaugural class of the Pride of the Lions.
Lary played in the defensive backfield alongside Jack Christiansen and Jim David on “Chris’ Crew,” a unit that 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.
During his career, Lary grabbed 50 career interceptions, and only recently, with expanded schedules allowing for more opportunities per season, has he been bumped off the list of top-20 all-time interceptors. Lary remains third on the Lions all-time list, and his 787 career interception return yards rank second in Detroit history behind Lem Barney’s 1,015.
He not only excelled as a safety, but also served as an exceptional punter. Lary won punting titles in 1959, 1961 and 1963, missing another one in 1962 by just 3.6 inches. During the 1960 season, 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. He once recorded a string of six games and 32 punts with no returns and he had just four of his 503 punts blocked in his career.
Lary also returned kickoffs in 1952-1953 and 1956, scored three touchdowns on punt returns (longest: 74 yards in 1953). In all, he scored six career touchdowns, which also included two interceptions and one fumble return.
The Lions selected Lary in the third round of the 1952 NFL Draft, and he served a tour of duty with the U.S. Army from 1954-55.