Robert Yale Lary (1930-2017)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Robert Yale Lary (1930-2017)

He wasn't in any sense of the word "spectacular," playing the position which has today come to be designated "Free Safety," but Yale Lary, the 5'11" first-team All-Southwest Conference defensive back in 1951 in his third and final year playing for Texas A&M University, was a great one during an interrupted 11-year career for the Detroit Lions, playing on three NFL Championship teams.

Having traded away their picks in the first two rounds of the 1952 NFL draft, the Lions made Lary their first selection, #9 in the third round (#34 overall), ahead of such notables as Pat Summerall (#45 overall) and Jim David (#261 overall).

In the present era of expanded rosters (only 33 players suited up back then) and specialists, Lary was the Lions punter, their punt returner, and an integral member of "Chris' Crew" in the defensive backfield along side Jack Christiansen, David and Carl Karilivacz.

Lary played his entir 11-season career in Detroit... he missed the '54 and '55 seasons due to a military service commitment... and when he retired after the 1964 season, he'd been a member of the Lions' 1952, 1953 and 1957 Championship teams and held numerous punting and return records, both on punts and interceptions.

His career average was 44.3 yards on 503 punts, and he twice averaged over 48 yards a kick for a full 14-game season. When he took off his cleats for the final time, his record was exceeded by only Sammy Baugh.

(In today's NFL that sort of performance would garner an annual salary in excess of $3 million.)

As a defensive back he had 50 career interceptions... three for touchdowns... and scored another three on punt returns and a fumble recovery.

I wish the Lions had another like him playing for them today!


1. Hampton West said...

Ah Dean, another name gone from the sports heroes of my youth. Remember him well as a punter, and at a young age was a bit confused since he also returned punts. Was he kicking to himself? Eventually I figured it out!

What I liked about that time was the versatility of the players: Lou Groza played on the offensive line as well as placed-kicked, as did Jim Martin. QBs Bobby Layne and Milt Plum place-kicked as well as HBs Doak Walker and Tom Tracy, and LB Wayne Walker. Of course an NFL roster was only 32 players at the time, as opposed to the current 53 where there is room for specialists. (Ah, there, Ray Guy!)
– Dean

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