The Detroit Lions, a franchise with a storied football history, have been home to numerous talented players who have made their mark on the team and the hearts of Lions fans. From offensive stars to defensive standouts, these individuals have played pivotal roles in shaping the team’s legacy and providing memorable moments for fans. In this article, we present the top ten all-time Detroit Lions players, highlighting their accomplishments primarily as Lions and their contributions to the team’s rich history. Join us as we celebrate the remarkable careers of these legends and their lasting impact on the Detroit Lions franchise.
1. Barry Sanders (RB, 1989-1998)
Barry Sanders is widely regarded as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. His electrifying running style, agility, and ability to make defenders miss made him a joy to watch. Sanders rushed for over 15,000 yards in his career, all with the Lions, and won the NFL MVP award in 1997. Despite retiring prematurely, Sanders remains the face of the franchise and a legend in the Motor City.
2. Calvin Johnson (WR, 2007-2015)
Calvin Johnson, also known as “Megatron,” was a dominant wide receiver and a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses. His size, speed, and exceptional catching ability made him virtually unstoppable. Johnson set numerous records during his career, including the single-season record for receiving yards. Despite playing in an era of great receivers, he stood out as one of the best.
3. Night Train Lane (CB, 1960-1965)
Night Train Lane was a shutdown cornerback and one of the most feared defensive backs of his era. His physicality, ball skills, and playmaking ability made him a perennial All-Pro and a game-changer for the Lions’ defense. Lane was known for his fierce competitiveness and is widely considered one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history.
4. Lem Barney (CB, 1967-1977)
Lem Barney was a lockdown cornerback and a playmaker for the Lions’ defense. His agility, speed, and ability to make acrobatic interceptions made him a fan favorite. Barney was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time NFL interceptions leader, and a member of the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. His impact on the Lions’ defense was significant.
5. Bobby Layne (QB, 1950-1958)
Bobby Layne was a charismatic quarterback and a leader for the Lions during the 1950s. His strong arm, toughness, and clutch performances made him a key figure in the team’s success. Layne led the Lions to three NFL championships and was known for his ability to rally the team in the fourth quarter. He is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in Lions history.
6. Joe Schmidt (LB, 1953-1965)
Joe Schmidt was a fierce middle linebacker and the heart of the Lions’ defense during his career. His intelligence, toughness, and instincts made him one of the best linebackers of his era. Schmidt was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and a member of the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team. His impact on the Lions’ defense cannot be understated.
7. Alex Karras (DT, 1958-1970)
Alex Karras was a dominant defensive tackle and a key member of the Lions’ defense during the 1960s. His strength, agility, and disruptive play made him a force in the trenches. Karras was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and played with a tenacity that made him a fan favorite. His impact on the Lions’ defense was significant.
8. Dick “Night Train” Lane (CB, 1960-1965)
Dick “Night Train” Lane was a shutdown cornerback and one of the most feared defensive backs of his era. His physicality, ball skills, and playmaking ability made him a perennial All-Pro and a game-changer for the Lions’ defense. Lane was known for his fierce competitiveness and is widely considered one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history.
9. Herman Moore (WR, 1991-2001)
Herman Moore was a dynamic wide receiver and a key weapon in the Lions’ passing game. His size, speed, and ability to make contested catches made him a constant threat on the field. Moore was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and set numerous Lions franchise records during his career. His impact on the Lions’ offense was undeniable.
10. Doak Walker (RB, 1950-1955)
Doak Walker was a versatile running back and a key contributor to the Lions’ success in the 1950s. His elusive running style, receiving ability, and kicking skills made him a valuable asset for the team. Walker won two NFL championships with the Lions and was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He remains one of the iconic players in Lions history.
- Chris Spielman (LB, 1988-1995)
- Yale Lary (S/P, 1952-1953, 1956-1964)
- Billy Sims (RB, 1980-1984)
The Detroit Lions have a rich football history filled with legendary players who have left an indelible mark on the franchise and the hearts of fans. From Barry Sanders’s electrifying runs to Calvin Johnson’s jaw-dropping catches, these players have defined the Lions’ legacy. Each individual on this list has made significant contributions to the team’s success and has become an icon in the Motor City. Their dedication, skill, and impact on the field will forever be celebrated as an integral part of the Detroit Lions’ storied franchise.