The Detroit Lions were founded in 1934 and have since had many talented players make an impact on the franchise. Whether Lions franchise records were set or NFL records were set, these players are all deserving of what they earned. However, there are five players who have stood out to me throughout the Lions history.
Keep in mind, I chose players who have been successful in my life or a few years before. Every player on this list has an argument to be there.
5. WR Herman Moore-Herman Moore is no doubt one of the best Lions in history. A first-rounder in 1991, Moore was a consensus All-American at The University of Virginia. Moore came to the Lions and contributed to a playoff victory in 1991. Also in Detroit, he was a four-time pro bowler and three-time first-team all-pro. Additionally, he led the league in receptions in 1995 and 1997. The Lions have also celebrated Moore in many ways. He was honored as a member of the Pride of the Lions and the Lions 75th-anniversary team.
4. K Jason Hanson – I know what you’re probably thinking. A Kicker? On a top-five list? Yeah. A Kicker on a top-five list. Hanson was that guy for the Lions. Ever since the Lions lost the leg of Jason Hanson, our kicking room has not been the same. Detroit is a Football team that has always been set at kicker, and Hanson more than embodied that. Hanson holds records for longest tenure with one team, playing 20 seasons in Detroit. He also holds NFL records of most career 40 and 50-yard field goals and is the Lions all-time leading scorer with 2,150 career points scored.
3. QB Matthew Stafford– Any All-time Lions list that does not include Stafford is quite frankly laughable. Despite the fact he was traded to the LA Rams and won a super bowl in 2020, Stafford was the best quarterback to ever put on a Lions jersey. Fans can argue he won absolutely nothing in Detroit. Although that is very true, Stafford was truly the reason we as fans were able to enjoy Lions football on Sundays. The number one pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Stafford made an immediate impact on this team and this city. His accomplishments with this franchise in his 12 seasons are immaculate. To start, he left the Lions as the all-time leader in yards (45,109), touchdowns (282), and completions (3,898). Additionally, he led the Lions with 74 wins, the most by any QB in franchise history. There’s not a world I live in that Stafford is hated in Detroit. What he did for this team was much more impactful than team success. He should definitely be wearing that gold jacket in Canton one day.
2. WR Calvin Johnson-Megatron.His nickname was absolutely fitting considering he literally played like he was not human. The second pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Calvin made an immediate impact. In the two seasons before Stafford arrived, Megatron recorded 2,087 yards and 16 touchdowns. When Stafford arrived, it was history. Megatron had over 1,000 yards in six straight seasons. From 2011-2016, he earned pro bowl honors in each season and was named first-team all-pro three times. Megatron is also the Lions franchise leader in yards and receptions. He was voted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 2021 and is widely considered one of the greatest receivers to ever play.
RB Barry Sanders– No surprise here. Not only was Barry one of the best athletes to ever play in Detroit, he may have been one of the best athletes ever. When anybody outside of Chicago is asked who the best RB ever is, they say Barry Sanders. To describe what Barry did to impact the game of football would take a novel. However, in Detroit, he was electrifying. Barry never had a season in the duration of his career where he ran for under 1,000 yards. To put that into perspective, that’s 10 straight seasons of 1,000 or more yards. To break it down even further, Barry ran for 1,500 yards in 5 different seasons. He is also the first RB in NFL history to run for 100 yards in 14 straight games and one of six backs to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season. Simply put, he was nothing short of legendary. Sanders number 20 was retired by the Lions in 2004 and he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the same year.