In this edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the man who is arguably the greatest defensive back in NFL history, who 60 years later, still holds the NFL single-season record for interceptions.
10. Dick “Night Train” Lane
Cornerback. 1960-65 Detroit; 1952-53 Los Angeles Rams; 1954-59 Chicago Cardinals
Fast, quick, cunning, vicious . . . those are all terms that could be used to describe one Richard Lane. He is still in the opinion of many, the greatest cornerback in NFL history. He began his career as a rookie with the defending NFL champion Los Angeles Rams in 1952. As an NFL freshman, he set a single-season league record of 14 interceptions that still stands today. The mark is all the more amazing when you consider that the NFL schedule at the time was only 12 games long. After a two-year stint with the Rams, Night Train roamed the Chicago Cardinal secondary for six-years until he was traded to the Lions before the start of the 1960 season.
In Detroit he would team with future Hall of Famers Joe Schmidt and Yale Lary, as well as all-time Lion greats Alex Karras, Wayne Walker, Roger Brown, Dick LeBeau, Darris McCord and Gary Lowe. Together they would round out what in most observers’ minds was the best defense in Lions’ history. Though retiring in 1965, Night Train still places third on the NFL career interception list with 68, with 21 of those coming as a Lion. Night Train would be named to four of his five career All-Pro teams, as well as three of his seven Pro Bowls, while with the Lions.
In addition to his ball-hawking skills, Night Train was one of the most feared hitters of all-time. He had two special moves. The first one, during the pre-facemask days, was a well-placed elbow to the ball-carriers face. The second, after the facemask became standard, was simply placing the ball-carrier in a headlock and twisting him to the ground. The latter tactic became better known as the “Night Train Necktie,” and would soon become outlawed by the NFL hierarchy.
Lion receiver and teammate Pat Studstill, once spoke of Lane’s tactics in these glowing terms: “Oh, he’d kill ya’. . . . He wouldn’t necessarily tackle you . . . FAIR.” With a description like that, it’s probably safe to say that Pat’s glad he never had to play against the “Night Train” in another uniform.