Detroit Lions: Old school stories from the book ‘Paper Lion’
Joe Schmidt: Forgotten Superstar
No funny stories about Schmidt, but I’m surprised I’d never heard of this guy. He is a Hall of Fame linebacker, 10 time Pro-Bowler, and eight time All-Pro. Yet, I’d never once heard of him until ‘Paper Lion’.
The veteran linebacker is depicted in the book as the ultimate leader, one of the three true superstars of the game, alongside Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas (I know who they are). Schmidt is one of only four Lions to have their jerseys retired. The other three are Barry Sanders, Bobby Layne, and Doak Walker (Stafford’s #9 will be next).
I now feel ashamed at my ignorance regarding this all-time Detroit Lions great. I’m glad that Plimpton gives him his his due in ‘Paper Lion’.
By my estimates, star lineman Alex Karras was the Rob Gronkowski of his day. When he wasn’t wreaking havoc on the field, he was wreaking havoc off of it, often in a bizarre and hilarious fashion. Though Karras served a gambling suspension for the entire 1963 season, he gets plenty of ink in ‘Paper Lion’. A few examples:
- Karras was part-owner of the Lindell AC, a notoriously shady bar in Detroit. So shady in fact that coaches tried to ban the players from going there during training camp. In order to be reinstated to the league in the following season, commissioner Pete Rozelle made him sell his share in the operation.
- The way he spent his time during the offseason was always unpredictable. One year, Karras supposedly filled jelly doughnuts at an Iowa bakery for most of the summer. I can absolutely picture Gronk doing that. Or maybe fill cereal boxes at the Gronk Flakes factory.
- Another of Karras’s summer gigs was playing on a travel basketball team with other Lions players. They’d go to small towns around Michigan and play whatever local team was available. Karras was not among the most popular players on these barnstorming ventures, due to his habit of knocking opposing players out with “deliberate backhand blows to the head” during games.