I should make a note that this is not the ten BEST lions, it’s my 10 FAVORITE lions to watch. I should also make note that I’ve limited this to the last 30 years, since anything earlier I wasn’t really old enough to watch football, let alone even begin to understand it. I’ll also make note that Stafford isn’t on this list, but if I were to do this list a year or two from now, I would think he easily would be. SO, my 10 favorite Lions players to watch over the last 30 years in alphabetical order:
The player who dates farthest back on my list, I loved watching Blades hit people. This was towards the early part of when I was starting to get into football, but Blades brought an old school mentality to the safety position (though I’m not sure if it was old school at the time!) and he loved to hit people, and I loved to see people get hit! Blades is second all-time on the Lions with 815 career tackles.
Luther doesn’t have quite as accomplished career as most of the other Lions on this list, but he was fun to watch, at least for me. He was big, powerful, and all business. His ability to get after the QB made plays interesting. Even if not getting a sack, the pressure he created often led to excitement or the defense. He was just fun to watch.
Before there was Devin Hester or Dante Hall, there was Mel Gray. When Gray returned kicks, there was an excitement in the air, knowing he could return one for a score at any given time. Although he only played 5-6 years for the Lions (I’m too lazy to check), he made it to where you couldn’t catch a bathroom break during a punt for fear of missing out on something exciting happening.
I’ll admit I almost left Hanson off this list. How excited can you really get over a kicker after all? But time after time throughout his career, he came up to kick with the game on the line and way more often than not succeeded. Having a great kicker can ease a lot of tension, especially when they’re kicking with the game on the line. I remember the Lions trailing by a point with 3 seconds on the clock, and a 54 yard field goal attempt coming up and I just took a deep breath and said Hanson’s got this, and sure enough, he nailed it. So when I thought about it, how could you not include the Lions all-time leader in points (4th all-time in the entire NFL!) and one of the greatest ever to play the game at his position?
*side note: A lot of old time Lions fans will remember before Hanson we had Eddie Murray (18th all-time in NFL points scored, 2nd all-time for the Lions). For all the Lions struggles over that time span, the one thing they consistently excelled at was their kicking game for over 30+ years!
The catch pictured here is my second favorite play in Lions history that I’ve ever seen, jumping over three defenders and still somehow managed to snag the ball away from them for a TD! Megatron was one of the top receivers every year he played. Defenses changed how they played when he was in the game vs. when he was out of the game. Recently retired and well missed by Lions fans, he will go down as one of the greatest Lions ever to play. Megatron retires as the Lions all-time leader in receptions with 731, among other Lions records.
Before there was megatron, there was Herman Moore. He was a stud WR in his day. Paired with Brett Perriman and Johnnie Morton, they made one of the most feared pass catching groups in the league. Moore broke the NFL’s single season reception mark with 123 catches in 1995 (since broken) and is 2nd all time in Lion’s history with 670 receptions. Like megatron, he towered over most of the DB’s he faced and used his size to his advantage. If there’s a Lion’s WR receord that Johnson doesn’t hold, chances are Moore does.
For as good as Johnson was and Moore and Perriman were when playing with Morton, I always found Morton to be the most exciting of the WR’s. He was smaller in stature, but seemed to just lay out for every ball. He didn’t seem to give up until the ball was on the ground. If anyone were to ever track how many thrown balls a WR laid out for, I’m pretty sure Morton would be near the top of that list. He was often seen full extension to get to a ball. 3rd all-time in Lions history in both receptions and yards for a career, in my biased opinion, Morton may be one of the most overlooked players not just in Lions history, but all time.
Porcher’s career with the Lions lasted 13 years and he was fun to watch get after the QB and put pressure on opposing offenses. While I loved watching Bennie Blades hit people, Porcher was truly my first defensive player that I enjoyed watching. I liked Spielman (more on him later), and he came earlier than Porcher, but I just liked watching Porcher more. He was truly the first defensive player I really got into as an individual player. Porcher is the Lions all-time leader in sacks with 95.5, and I got to enjoy watching most of those!
Barry Sanders! What more is there to say really. How about this: while everyone on the planet knows he is the Lion’s all-time leader in rushing yards, did you know he actually has more yards than the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th players in Lion’s history COMBINED! He holds the 7 highest season totals and the 4 highest individual game totals and is the only Lions player to rush for more than 200 yards in a game. He has more than twice as many rushing TD’s in Lions history (99) and Billy Sims who is 2nd all time (42). I could go on and on about his different records- simply put Barry Sanders = G.O.A.T.
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The last spot came down to Spielman, Stafford, Brett Perriman, and Drey Bly and it was a hard choice. But ultimately I decided to go with Spielman. He is the Lion’s all-time leader in tackles for a career (1,138) and a season (195). With Porcher leading the way and being a disruptive force up front, it opened the way for Spielman to rake in the tackles. He was of the elite LB’s in his playing days and fun to watch.
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