Detroit Lions great and Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Yale Lary died Friday morning at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, at the age of 86.
Lary was one of the best all-around players during during an 11-year career (1952-53, 1956-1964) as a safety, punter and kickoff returner. He was a key member of the Lions' last three NFL championship teams in 1952, 1953 and 1957.
Lary missed two seasons (1954-55) in the prime of his career to serve in the Army. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
"On behalf of my family and the Detroit Lions, I would like to extend my deepest, personal sympathies to Mary Jane and to his children Yale Jr. and Nancy Jane on the passing of Yale," Lions owner and chairman Martha Firestone Ford said in a statement Friday.
"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. 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."
Lary, a third-round pick out of Texas A&M in 1952, recorded 50 interceptions and averaged 44.3 yards per punt during his career, winning punting titles in 1959, 1961 and 1963. He was named All-NFL five times, voted to nine Pro Bowls and selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1950s.
"Yale Lary was a true American hero," Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO 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.
"Yale Lary lived a life of character that will serve as great inspiration to generations of fans. His legacy will forever be celebrated at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio."