Yale Lary was one of the best all-around football players of his generation, even though he missed two seasons in the prime of his career to serve in the Army. Lary was not only a Hall of Fame defensive back, but also doubled as the punter and punt/kick returner for the Lions during his career.
There would be a very good discussion about who was the greatest running back of all time in the NFL. There would be some names mentioned in that discussion; Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, just to name a few and each could be considered as the greatest. However, in my humble opinion, that title is reserved for one man…..Jim Brown.
Jim Brown dominated everybody. Over the course of his nine seasons, Brown ran over, through, and around people for 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns on the ground. At 29, he shocked the world and retired from the game of football in his prime. Brown simply had nothing else left to prove, having already qualified as the record holder of every significant rushing mark in the books.
Although Brown has since been surpassed by Emmitt Smith and Payton in the record books, neither back can touch his remarkable 5.2-yard-per-carry average. As the perfect complement of size and speed, Brown put up video-game-like numbers in the era of the phonograph and turntable. With the exception of 1962, Brown led the NFL in rushing every year between ’57 and ’65. In 1963, he torched defenses for 1,863 rushing yards on only 291 carries, which translates into a 6.4-yard-per-carry average. I would go further and say that he would be just as dominating a player in today’s game as he was then.