JACK CHRISTIANSEN

JACK CHRISTIANSEN

Class of 1970
Defensive Back >>> 6-1, 205
(Colorado St.)
1951-1958 Detroit Lions

John Leroy Christiansen. . .Left safety stalwart on three title teams. . . All-NFL six straight years, 1952-1957. . .Played in five Pro Bowls. . . Formidable defender, return specialist. . . Foes' standard rule: "Don't pass in his area, don't punt to him". . .NFL interception leader, 1953, co-leader in 1957. . . Career marks: 46 steals for 717 yards, three TDs. . .85 punt returns for 1,084 yards, eight TDs. . .Born December 20, 1928, in Sublette, Kansas. . .Died June 29, 1986, at age of 57.

Because he felt he was too small, Jack Christiansen didn't even plan to play college football. He first thought that he would concentrate as a sprinter on the track team at Colorado State. But he was coaxed out for football as a sophomore and he starred in the very first game he ever played. From then on for the next three years, Christiansen was a star as a return man, on defense, and as a ball carrier.

Still his size – 6-1 and 162 pounds at the time – may have left some doubts in the minds of some pro scouts whether he could make it in professional football. But the Lions did draft him in 1951 and, right from the start, he enjoyed spectacular success. In one crucial contest against the Los Angeles Rams as a rookie, Christiansen scored twice on punt returns of 69 and 47 yards. He also scored on two punt returns (71 and 89 yards) against the Green Bay Packers that season. So effective as a punt returner, teams were forced to change their defensive strategy.

Soon all the teams were using the spread punt formation to try to contain the elusive Christiansen. As great as he was on the return teams, Jack's forte was defense and he was the key man for the defensively-strong Lions, who in the 1950s dominated the National Football League with four divisional and three world championships.

The defensive backfield of the Lions became known as “Chris’ Crew,” in recognition of Christiansen’s leadership and outstanding play. On the field, he was the defensive boss and ran the show. He led the league in interceptions in 1953 and tied for the league lead in 1957. Just like teams did on punt formations, opposing teams altered their passing patterns against Detroit. Many clubs had a standard rule when playing Detroit — don't throw in Christiansen's area, and don't punt to him. Christiansen played eight seasons with the Lions from 1951-58 and was named All-Pro six consecutive years (1952-1957) and played in five consecutive Pro Bowls (1954-1958).

Year
Team
G
No.
Yds.
Avg.
TD
No.
Yds.
Avg.
TD
1951 Detroit
12
18
343
19.1
4
11
270
24.5
0
1952 Detroit
11
15
322
21.5
2
16
409
25.6
0
1953 Detroit
12
8
22
2.8
0
10
183
18.3
0
1954 Detroit
11
23
225
9.8
1
5
102
20.4
0
1955 Detroit
9
12
87
7.3
0
7
169
24.1
0
1956 Detroit
12
6
73
12.2
1
6
116
19.3
0
1957 Detroit
12
3
12
4.0
0
4
80
20.0
0
1958 Detroit
10
0
0
0.0
0
0
0
0.0
0
Career Total
89
85
1084
12.8
8
59
1329
22.5
0
 
Year Team
G
Int
Yds.
Avg.
TD
FumRec.
Yds.
 
1951 Detroit
12
2
53
26.5
0
1
52
   
1952 Detroit
11
2
47
23.5
0
1
0
   
1953 Detroit
12
12
238
19.8
1
3
0
   
1954 Detroit
11
8
84
10.5
1
0
0
   
1955 Detroit
9
3
49
16.3
0
2
36
   
1956 Detroit
12
8
109
13.6
0
0
0
   
1957 Detroit
12
10
137
13.7
1
0
0
   
1958 Detroit
10
1
0
0.0
0
0
0
   
Career Total
89

46

717

15.6

3

7

88

 

Additional Career Statistics: Rushing: 19-143, 2 TDs; Receiving: 3-32; Scoring: 13 TDs

Full Name: John Leroy Christiansen

Birthdate: December 20, 1928

Birthplace: Sublette, Kansas

Died: June 29, 1986

High School: Odd Fellows Orphanage

Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 12, 1970

Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 8, 1970

Presenter: Buddy Parker, Former Lions Coach

Other Members of Class of 1970: Tom Fears, Hugh McElhenny, Pete Pihos

Pro Career: 8 seasons, 89 games

Drafted: 6th round (69th overall) by Detroit Lions

Uniform Number: 24, (19)

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