Jack Christiansen overcame great odds to become a Pro Football Hall of Fame player. He grew up as an orphan in Colorado before playing his college ball at Colorado A&M, now known as Colorado State University.
Despite being an all-conference player twice in Fort Collins, Christiansen would fall to the Lions in the sixth round of the 1951 NFL Draft. Detroit used its No. 69 overall pick on the safety and return specialist. He would go on to play all eight of his NFL seasons with the Lions.
From 1952 to 1957, Christiansen was named First-Team All-Pro. He rattled off five straight Pro Bowl honors from 1953 to 1957. Twice did Christiansen led the NFL in interceptions. He had 12 for 238 yards and a touchdown in 1953, all league bests. This included an impressive 92-yard trip to pay dirt. He also had 10 interceptions for 137 yards and a touchdown in 1957.
Naturally, Christiansen was named to the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team as a defensive back. He finished with 46 interceptions for 717 yards and three touchdowns, as well as seven fumble recoveries for 88 yards.
Christiansen would be a three-time NFL champion with the Lions in 1952, 1953 and 1957. He hung up the spikes in 1958 to begin a career in coaching. After serving as a defensive backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers immediately upon retirement in 1959, he would later become their head coach from 1963 to 1967.
Christiansen would also serve as the Stanford Cardinal’s head coach from 1972 to 1976. His last coaching stop was managing the defensive backfield with the Atlanta Falcons in 1983. Christiansen absolutely classifies as a football lifer.
12 years after retiring from playing, Christiansen would earn Canton enshrinement as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1970. Being a three-time NFL champion during the Lions’ heyday, as well as a brilliant ball hawk and remarkable return man made him an obvious inclusion in Canton.
Overall, getting a six-time First-Team All-Pro in the sixth round is about as good of value as one team could ever hope for. Yet, the Lions still have one more draft-day steal of note left to be discussed. Of course, this guy is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but who is he?