Although he was a three-time All-Southwestern Conference star who had intercepted 26 passes in three seasons at Jackson State, Lem Barney was a comparative unknown when he joined the National Football League as a second-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 1967.
It took only a few games, however, for the 6-0, 188-pound speedster to become widely respected as one of the premier comerbacks in pro football. Barney originally was tested as a wide receiver but his exceptional skills as a defender could not be ignored. After a sensational rookie season, he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and selected to play in the Pro Bowl, something he would do six more times during his stellar career. Barney also tied for the NFL interception lead with 10. Three of his interceptions were returned for touchdowns, just one short of the then-all-time single-season record.
Barney, a native of Gulfport, Mississippi, also won acclaim as a kick return specialist. Particularly early in his career, he saw duty on both the punt and kickoff return units, as well as playing full-time at comerback. He was highly feared as a big-play threat for good reason. In his 11-year tenure that ended after the 1977 campaign, Barney had a 98-yard kickoff return, a 94-yard field goal return, a 74-yard punt return and a 71-yard interception runback.
His career record includes 56 interceptions for 1,077 yards, 143 punt returns for 1,312 yards and 50 kickoff returns for 1,274 yards. He scored 11 touchdowns on seven interceptions, two punt returns, one kickoff return and one field goal return. He also recovered 11 opponents' fumbles and doubled as the Lions punter in both 1967 and 1969. Barney was named All-NFL in 1968 and 1969 and All-NFC in 1972 and 1975.
Lemuel Jackson Barney
September 8, 1945
33rd Avenue (Gulfport, MS)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame:
January 25, 1992
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame:
August 1, 1992
Jim David, Former Def. Coach, Lions
Other Members of Class of 1992: Al Davis
, John Mackey
, John Riggins
11 seasons, 140 games
2nd round (34th overall) by Detroit Lions