The NFL world is in mourning this week after Yale Lary, a Hall of Fame safety and a legendary punter who helped take the Detroit Lions to three NFL championships in the 1950s, passed away at his Fort Worth home last Thursday. He was 86 years-old.
The New York Times reported that Lary played for the Lions for 11 seasons and was voted to the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1950s. During his time with the Lions, Lary played in nine Pro Bowls.
“The combination of speed and quickness made him a real ballhawk,” said Raymond Berry, a Hall of Fame receiver for the Baltimore Colts. “He was one of the defensive backs that had such a nose for the football that you had to be careful throwing around him, because if you made a mistake, the ball will be in his hands going the other direction.”
Born in 1930, Lary was a multi-sport athlete at North Side High School there and a two-way player at Texas A&M, where he played football as well as baseball. He was selected in the third round of the 1952 NFL draft and served in the Army from 1954-55 after playing on two championship teams. After his service, he returned to the Lions and also played minor league baseball during the off-season.
During his career, Lary had 50 interceptions, with season highs of eight in 1956 and 1962, and ran back two for touchdowns. He also led the NFL in punting three times and averaged 44.3 yards per punt.
“Kicking from the end zone, Yale invariably put the ball across midfield with enough hang time to let us cover the kick,” said Joe Schmidt, a fellow Hall of Famer. “He made our defense look good because he always gave us room to work.”
Lary is survived by his beloved wife Janine as well as two children, four grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. Rest in peace, Yale Lary!