Yale Lary, a Force on the Detroit Lions’ Title-Winning Teams of the 1950s, Dies at 86

Robert Yale Lary was born on Nov. 24, 1930, in Fort Worth, the only child of Buster and Kathryn Lary. He was a multisport athlete at North Side High School there and a two-way player at Texas A&M, scoring two touchdowns on offense in the Aggies’ 22-21 upset of Texas in November 1951. He also played in the outfield and at first base for the Texas A&M baseball team that went to the 1951 College World Series.

The Lions selected Lary in the third round of the 1952 N.F.L. draft. After playing on two championship teams, he served in the Army in 1954 and 1955, then returned to the Lions but also played minor league baseball during the off-season.

Lary had 50 career interceptions, with season highs of eight in 1956 and 1962, and ran back two for touchdowns. He also scored three touchdowns on punt returns.

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Lary in 1964. Though he was only 5 feet 11 inches and 185 pounds, his “combination of speed and quickness made him a real ballhawk,” Raymond Berry, a Hall of Fame receiver for the Baltimore Colts, told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Credit
Associated Press

He led the N.F.L. 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,” Schmidt, a fellow Hall of Famer, said, according to the Hall. “He made our defense look good because he always gave us room to work.”

Lary developed punting skills in junior high school, when he often practiced outside his home at night. As the writer George Plimpton told it in “Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback,” in which he profiled Lions players he worked out with at the team’s 1963 training camp, “the streetlights would go on and he would punt the ball up through the cover of darkness, gone, and then forty or fifty yards down the street it…

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