Detroit Lions: 30 greatest players in franchise history

Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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Lem Barney, Detroit Lions
DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 18:  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

50. . Defensive Back. (1967-1977). Lem Barney. 9. player

A member of five different halls of fame, Lemuel Jackson Barney is the second beloved member of Detroit’s “Roaring 20s” trio to make this list who wore the iconic jersey number 20 as they excelled in the Lions’ Honolulu blue and silver.

Arriving in Detroit from Mississippi’s Jackson State University, a historically black university, Barney was an immediate standout, as he began his career with 10 interceptions as a rookie. He led all defensive backs in that category for the year and he was designated as 1967’s Associated  Press (AP) Defensive Rookie of the Year.

In the first few years of his career, Barney was voted to three straight Pro Bowls from 1967 to 1969 with first-team All-Pro honors coming along in the latter two seasons.

Over the course of his 11 years in Detroit, Barney would go on to take 56 passes from opposing quarterbacks and he skillfully returned seven of those picks for touchdowns, as he totaled 1,077 interception yards.

In addition to his prowess as a defensive player, he also flashed his on-field skills with the special teams units as a kick/punt returner. In 140 games, Barney had 193 combined kick/punt return attempts with three touchdowns and nearly 4,000 all-purpose yards.

Uber talented on and off-field, Barney (himself a talented singer) even found his way on to a Billboard top 5 single, as he and Lion teammate Mel Farr provided the backup vocals on the timeless song “What’s Going On” which was famously sung by Motown Records legend, Marvin Gaye.