Yale Lary – who played defensive back, punter and return man for the Detroit Lions – has died at the age of 86. He was considered one of the best all around football plays of the 1950s.
Yale Lary Cause of Death
Lary died of natural causes.
In his heyday, Lary was a nine-time Pro Bowler and a key piece of the Lions’ last three championship teams (1952, 1953 and 1957).
Lary was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930. He attended Texas A&M and came to national prominence as one of the country’s best punters.
“Lary, four-sport letterman at North Side, Fort Worth, kicked the hides off numerous pigskins while he was in junior high. He practiced kicking at school and then took a friend home to chase punts for him,” a 1950 newspaper account said.
The Lions Hall of Famer starred as a two-sport athlete (baseball and football) in college. One of his most notable college accomplishments was leading A&M to a 22-21 victory over Texas in his senior year (1951), which was the first time in 12 years the Aggies had beaten their more acclaimed in-state rival. That same year, Lary also led the baseball team to the College World Series and set a Southwest Conference record for doubles.
In 1952, Lary was drafted by the Lions and notched four interceptions as a rookie while also punting and returning kicks. The Lions won the NFL Championship game that year. In his second season, the Lions again won the big prize while he picked off five passes and continued to star on special teams.
Lary left the Lions in 1954 to serve two years in the Army. He was chosen as a First-Team All-Pro when he returned in 1956 and for the next three seasons. He described the 1950s Lions team as a close family:
“What I remember best of those times were not the games we played — the only one that sticks in my mind was the ’53 championship game when the pass to Jim Doran beat Cleveland in the last few minutes — but the closeness of everybody on the team,” Lary said in 1979. “I was talking to Torgy [former lineman Laverne Torgeson] just last night and we agreed there never was a team like the Lions of the 1950s. It was just one big happy family — our family against the rest of the football world.”