Though Dick Lane is No. 11 on this list as a player, he is No. 1 on the short list of all-time great Detroit Lion nicknames. Though the sound of it rhymes as you speak it like “Big Play” Slay and, for some, it is as catchy as a certain nickname from a legendary Transformers villain “Megatron”, “Night Train” is the only handle that is derived from a song that spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the rhythm and blues song charts!
The only player to make it to the NFL from Western Nebraska Community College out of Scottsbluff, Lane’s professional career got off to a unique start. After an honorable discharge from four years of service in the Army, Lane found himself tired of working a manual labor job in Southern California.
Determined for a new path, he grabbed an old scrapbook of his athletic achievements in basketball, baseball, and football and made his way to the team headquarters of the Los Angeles Rams.
Taken aback, the team’s brass did their due diligence on Lane. They decided to sign him as a free agent. It was a decision that paid immediate dividends as “Night Train” led the Rams (and the NFL) with a record 14 interceptions. He tacked on two pick-sixes for good measure!
After two years with the Rams and six years with the Chicago Cardinals, Lane spent the final half-dozen years of his career in Detroit as a Lion. By the time he arrived in town, he was well-known as a physical defender, who had developed his own new style of tackling. Night Train had a penchant for taking players down by their head, face, and neck with a maneuver dubbed as the “Night Train Necktie.”
His mauling style as a tackler led directly to the league implementing the face mask penalty in an early NFL effort towards player safety. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974, “Night Train” Lane was a big time player with a big time personality who was far ahead of his time.