Yale Lary, a Hall of Fame safety who helped the Detroit Lions win three NFL titles during the 1950s, has died. He was 86.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame confirmed his death, citing information from the nine-time Pro Bowler’s family. The Lions said Lary died Friday at his home in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Yale Lary was a true American hero,” Hall of Fame President David Baker said in a statement. “He was defined by his heart and character that made him one of the game’s greatest players. Yale led by example and raised the level of all his teammates that resulted in multiple league titles for the Detroit Lions. Those same traits were on display during his service to our country as a member of the United States Army.”
Lary had 50 interceptions during an 11-season career that was interrupted during the mid-1950s by service in the Army. He was also a punter and kick returner for the Lions, averaging 44.3 yards a punt.
He was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
Lary went to Texas A&M and was drafted by the Lions in 1952. He played two seasons before serving a tour of duty with the Army.
Detroit won NFL titles in 1952, 1953 and 1957 — three of Lary’s first four seasons.
The Lions released a statement Friday from owner Martha Firestone Ford. Her husband, William Clay Ford, owned the team before his death in 2014. His first full season leading the Lions was in 1964, the final season of Lary’s career.
“As his Hall of Fame career indicates, Yale truly was one of our all-time great players and one of the greatest of his generation,” Martha Ford said. “As good as he was on the field, he also was a genuinely wonderful person, one whose company and friendship Mr. Ford and I greatly cherished.”