In 1922, Guy Chamberlin, the player-coach of the Canton Bulldogs, recruited Roy (Link) Lyman, a 6-2, 233 pound tackle from the University of Nebraska, to play pro football. Lyman was no stranger to Chamberlin, who was also a Nebraska alumnus.
Chamberlin’s recruit went on to star with the Bulldogs during their back-to-back undefeated seasons of 1922 and 1923. The following season the Canton franchise was sold and several Canton players, including Lyman, moved on to Cleveland, where the Cleveland Bulldogs captured the 1924 NFL title. Lyman split the 1925 season between a new Canton franchise and the Frankford Yellowjackets.
Following the 1925 season he joined the Chicago Bears during that team’s famous cross-country barnstorming tour that featured Red Grange. Lyman remained with the Bears for the rest of his career that ended almost as it had begun. The Bears won the NFL title in 1933 and a divisional crown in 1934, Lyman’s final season.
Many pro football historians believe that the constant shifting by defensive players before each play in modern professional football can be traced back to Lyman, who regularly resorted to similar ploys. His sliding, shifting style of defensive line play confused his opponents and made him one of the most respected players of his time. Lyman explained that the idea of shifting was an instinctive move to fool a blocker. He had a unique ability to diagnose a play and many times he would make his move just as the ball was snapped.
Whether it was luck or a result of his outstanding play, Lyman experienced just one losing season during his 16 seasons of high school, college, and professional football. A contributor to the end, Bears coach George Halas insisted Lyman was stronger and tougher during his last two seasons than when he first joined the team eight years earlier.