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Lions Hall of Famer Yale Lary dies at 86

Yale Lary, a Lions defensive back, punter and return man who was one of the best football players of the 1950s, has died at the age of 86.

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Lary was an important member of the Lions’ last three championship teams, in 1952, 1953 and 1957.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930, Lary went to Texas A&M and first gained acclaim as one of the country’s best punters. “Lary, four-sport letterman at North Side, Fort Worth, kicked the hides off numerous pigskins while he was in junior high. He practiced kicking at school and then took a friend home to chase punts for him,” a 1950 newspaper account said.

Lary became a great two-sport athlete, starring in both football and baseball. His college football career is best remembered for leading A&M to a 22-21 victory over Texas in his senior year, 1951, the first time in 12 years A&M had beaten its biggest rival. A two-way player who was the team’s best defensive back, Lary starred on offense in that game, running for a 68-yard touchdown and catching a 37-yard touchdown pass. That same year, Lary led the baseball team to the College World Series and set a Southwest Conference record for doubles.

The Lions drafted Lary in 1952 and he had four interceptions as a rookie and also punted and returned kicks, and he helped the Lions win the NFL Championship Game. In his second season the Lions again won the NFL Championship with Lary intercepting five passes and again punting and returning kicks.

In 1954, Lary left the Lions to serve two years in the Army. He returned to the Lions in 1956 and was chosen a first-team All-Pro each of the next four seasons, again helping the Lions win the NFL Championship in 1957. Lary played minor league baseball during the NFL offseasons, and while still an active player he was elected to the Texas Legislature in 1958 and re-elected in 1960.

In later years Lary described the 1950s Lions as a tight-knit family.

“What I remember best of those times were not the games we played — the only one that sticks in my mind was the ’53 championship game when the pass to Jim Doran beat Cleveland in the last few minutes — but the closeness of everybody on the team,” Lary said in 1979. “I was talking to Torgy [former lineman Laverne Torgeson] just last night and we agreed there never was a team like the Lions of the 1950s. It was just one big happy family — our family against the rest of the football world.”

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22 Responses to “Lions Hall of Famer Yale Lary dies at 86”
  1. flakeybiscuits says: May 12, 2017 8:50 AM

    What a cool story. People like this are rare or even non-existent these days. Two sport pro athlete, politician, and veteran.

    The amount of things he did / accomplished in his lifetime are quite incredible.

  2. blitzinc43 says: May 12, 2017 8:55 AM

    As a close friend of the organization this saddens me. I am wishing the best for his family in these trying times.

  3. GreasedLightning says: May 12, 2017 9:26 AM

    Millennials have no idea who this is

  4. oldhuskerfan says: May 12, 2017 9:30 AM

    A name I hadn’t heard in a long time. I still have his PCG & SPCE card from 1964.

  5. captainwhodat says: May 12, 2017 9:43 AM

    tremendous player, believe he teamed with Dick Lebeau and Night Train Lane in the early sixties in the secondary

  6. footballmaven says: May 12, 2017 9:47 AM

    Also a member of that great ’62 Lions team that should’ve beaten out the Packers for the western conf title.
    I think back then the secondary for Detroit was Lowe, Lane, Lary and LeBeau….

  7. stew48 says: May 12, 2017 9:50 AM

    What a guy! What a player! What a life! Not a Lion fan, but sure remember him fondly as a super player.

  8. stew48 says: May 12, 2017 9:50 AM

    forgive my missing “s”

  9. secretomen00 says: May 12, 2017 9:51 AM


  10. pancaketaco says: May 12, 2017 10:04 AM

    Wow…a guess the world won’t end if being a politician is a part time job.

  11. TheVikingsHaveHowManySBTrophys? says: May 12, 2017 10:40 AM

    I remember him. He was a darn good d-back from memory of the very early 60’s.

  12. gerard33 says: May 12, 2017 10:45 AM

    Sad for his loss… But I love hearing about these old time ballers in these articles, thanks.

  13. chinahand11 says: May 12, 2017 10:59 AM

    “captainwhodat says: May 12, 2017 9:43 AM tremendous player, believe he teamed with Dick Lebeau and Night Train Lane in the early sixties in the secondary.”

    Dang that’s one heckuva defensive backfield there. RIP Mr. Lary.

  14. winged warrior says: May 12, 2017 11:12 AM

    captainwhodat says:
    May 12, 2017 9:43 AM
    tremendous player, believe he teamed with Dick Lebeau and Night Train Lane in the early sixties in the secondary
    Jack Christiansen was in that secondary also , at that time it was the best in the league they nicknamed it ‘Chris’ Crew’
    Pat Studstill played in that secondary also and later switched to WR , another two-way player .
    …..ah….if only we could bring back _’that’ _ NFL

  15. xlivsaints says: May 12, 2017 11:21 AM

    He was the man!

  16. Slow Joe (Bucs fan) says: May 12, 2017 11:40 AM

    I love these stories. A life well lived. Rest in Peace, Sir.

  17. nyneal says: May 12, 2017 12:15 PM

    I remember Yale Larry because of his unusual name.

    R.I.P. and thanks for your service to our country, Mr. Larry.

  18. tripledipper says: May 12, 2017 12:43 PM


  19. topwonk says: May 12, 2017 12:56 PM

    How about mentioning somewhere in this column that Yale Lary is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame! Inducted in 1979.

  20. hrmlss says: May 12, 2017 3:18 PM

    To bad, I heard the Lion’s had penciled him in as a starter at Right corner.

  21. grogansheroes says: May 12, 2017 3:20 PM

    RIP Mr. Larry.
    The Lions have won one playoff game since the ’57 title.

  22. sdsmooth says: May 12, 2017 4:13 PM


    The fact that he’s a hall of famer is the HEADLINE. Can’t get much more obvious than that.

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