Detroit Lions: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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Charlie Sanders, Detroit Lions
ALLEN PARK, MI – MAY 10: (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

. Tight End. (1968-1977). Charlie Sanders. 7. player. 50

Charlie Sanders was the greatest tight end to ever call himself a Lion. With all due respect to Detroit’s current players at the position, the team could sure use some Charlie Sanders like influence and production!

Sanders came into the NFL in 1968. After he went undrafted out of the University of Minnesota, he absolutely hit the ground running. Upon the completion of his rookie year, Sanders was the only first-year player to be voted to the Pro Bowl in 1969. He followed up his impressive debut with another three Pro Bowls and three-straight years worth of first-team All-Pro honors.

Sanders played his position in football during an era that is long bygone. He may have never totaled more than 42 receptions in a single season or caught more than six touchdown passes from his quarterback. However, tight ends weren’t used in the 1960s and 1970s the way that current tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce are used today.

Sanders was known as an adept blocker and that’s how he made his money. He did the dirty work in the trenches, blocking up front alongside the offensive linemen, protecting the passer and clearing running lanes.

Charlie was voted to the NFL’s 1970’s All-Decade team. He was also designated as a part of Detroit’s 75th Anniversary Team. In 2007, Sanders was recognized and rewarded for his efforts with an induction into the Pro Football Hall of  Fame.

Sadly, Sanders passed away in 2015 after staving off the effects of cancer.