Detroit Lions: 15 greatest draft-day steals of all-time

Darius Slay, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Darius Slay, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions. Mandatory Credit: Tom Pidgeon /Allsport /

Yale Lary was a two-sport star in college at Texas A&M. While in College Station, Lary served as a defensive back, punter and return specialist for the Aggies football team. He also played outfield for the Aggies baseball team, which made it all the way to the College World Series in 1951.

Detroit would use its No. 34 overall pick to draft Lary out of Texas A&M in the third round of the 1952 NFL Draft. He would play 11 seasons in Detroit over a 13-year span. After winning back-to-back NFL championships as a member of the 1952 and 1953 Lions, Lary had to fulfill a military obligation, which kept him out of the league for the 1954 and 1955 NFL seasons.

Lary was already a Pro Bowl defensive back for the Lions before serving his country for two seasons. He returned to play nine more years with Detroit, making eight more Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams, three of the first-team variety.

Lary won a third and final NFL championship as a part of the 1957 Lions, right in the heart of his prime as a professional. In total, Lary had 503 punts for 22,279 yards, averaging 44.3 per punt. He played in 133 career games, netting 50 interceptions for 737 yards and two touchdowns. Lary also forced eight fumbles, recovered 13 and even took one to the house.

After 11 seasons starring in the Honolulu blue and silver, Lary would retire after the 1964 NFL season at the age of 34. He would later be a part of the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team and eventually earning Canton enshrinement in 1979 as a career Lion.

Overall, it is strange that it took 15 years for a player as dominant and as multifaceted as Lary to make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was widely considered to be the best punter of his era with his booming kicks that garnered a lot of hangtime. Lary also had tremendous vision in the Detroit defensive back field. His 50 career interception are certainly a testament to that.

For many NFL organizations, drafting a player who would go on to be a Pro Football Hall of Famer in the third round would top that team’s all-time list. To do that as a player that never played for another NFL team should only add to that. With Lary spending two of his early years in the NFL fighting for his country should theoretically make that a lock.

That being said, a team that has picked in literally every NFL Draft to date might have found a few gems taken after the No. 34 overall pick. This is the case with the Lions, who have extracted even more talent in later rounds than the third. Regardless, Lary’s spot at No. 4 is merited and one could argue that he should be higher up than that.