Detroit Lions: 15 best first-round draft picks of all-time

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions. (Photo by Michael Adamucci/Getty Images) /

Before Mel Farr Superstar, the Lions had another reliable ball carrier in the form of former Golden Domer Nick Pietrosante. The Lions took Pietrosante with the No. 6 overall pick in the 1959 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame. He was coming off an All-American season with the Fighting Irish before going pro.

Pietrosante would be an impactful running back for the Lions his first three years in the league. As a rookie, he would rush for 447 yards on just 76 carries. His league-high 5.9 yards per rushing attempt was key in him winning NFL Rookie of the Year honors in 1959.

After that, Pietrosante would make two straight Pro Bowls in 1960 and 1961. Those were his first two years as a full-time starter. While he never rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season, Pietrosante would leave the Lions after seven seasons with nearly 4,000 in his career.

He would play his final two NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns before retiring at the age of 30 after the 1967 NFL season. While Pietrosante was not a productive player in Cleveland, he was able to achieve all of his NFL success in the blue and silver for Detroit. He finished his Lions career with 3,933 rushing yards on 938 attempts for 28 touchdowns.