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. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Wayne Walker seemed to attract greatness all across his sports life. Growing up in Boise, Idaho, he would play little league baseball with Baseball Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew. While Killebrew had an unbelievable career with the Minnesota Twins, it would be on the gridiron where Walker would make a name for himself.

He would play his college ball at the University of Idaho. His teammate and roommate while in Moscow was none other than Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Jerry Kramer of Green Bay Packers fame. While Walker will never have a bust in Canton, Ohio like Kramer or a plaque in Cooperstown, New York like Killebrew, he was a great player in his own right.

Walker was drafted in the fourth round, No. 45 overall by the Lions in the 1958 NFL Draft. He played all 15 professional seasons with Detroit from 1958 to 1972. Walker served as linebacker and for an eight-year stretch in Detroit (1962-68) as the franchise’s kicker.

Though he was only a 40.5 percent kicker during his time with the Lions, Walker would go on to be a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker with the Lions and a three-time All-Pro. He made his three Pro Bowls consecutively from 1963 to 1965. His All-Pro honors would run from 1964 to 1966 with his 1965 campaign being of the First-Team variety.

While Walker joined on with the Lions after their glory days, he was both a popular and versatile player for Detroit. Though his 40.5 percent conversion rate on field goals is the lowest in NFL history, that did have him in the top-three in Lions history at his retirement. However, he was significantly more accurate on his point-after attempts, converting on 98.3 precent of them.

With tackles not being officially recorded until well after he hung up the spikes, we do have several key stats of note that stand out from Walker’s playing career with the Lions. He had 15 fumble recoveries and 14 interceptions in 200 games with the Lions, making 169 starts during that span. He also had 345 career points as a lackluster placekicker.

Walker continued to build a name for himself post-playing career. He would go on to be the sports director for San Francisco’s CBS affiliate station KPIX-TV from 1974 to 1994. Walker would often provide color commentary on San Francisco 49ers broadcasts during this time, occasionally being in the booth to call Oakland Athletics games with none other than Killebrew in the late 1970s.

Overall, Walker’s 15 years in Lions uniform, highlighted by a four-year peak has him firmly on this list as a draft-day steal. Getting a multi-time Pro Bowler that played linebacker and could provide replacement value as a kicker in the fourth round is marked value. Every player ahead of him on this all-time list was more talent, but none got more out of his talent for longer than did Walker.