Behind the Bronze: Lem Barney

12/06/2011


Only 267 bronze busts reside in the Hall of Fame Gallery inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They "immortalize" the greatest players, coaches, and contributors that this game has produced. Each week during the 2011 NFL Season we will sit down for a Q&A with one of these legends.

Lem Barney, Class of 1992



Lem Barney's Hall of Fame bio>>>

HOBBIES:
I love working out, I still love to pray because of my faith, my beliefs, it’s not a hobby it’s a discipline I call it. I still love tennis and golf and with those four things I feel like I’m on top of the world.

LAST BOOK YOU READ:
Every morning I read the word, I read the Bible every morning as part of my disciplines and after I read I do my praying and after my praying I do my work out. But the last book I read was “Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind” by a great preacher Joyce Meyer.

FAVORITE MUSIC:
My favorite music today is gospel and classical and I love jazz as well. Being a former gold recorder with Motown and Marvin Gaye, I’ve gotten away from the hard music as I call it today and in my latter years I’ve gone to the softer. I’ve always loved gospel and jazz because I’m a former drummer. I played drums in a band, but gospel, jazz and classical are my sounds.

FAVORITE MOVIE:
I haven’t been to a movie in years. I stopped doing movies and I stopped doing television, I don’t have anything against that, I just don’t have a lot for it today, and I can find something to do in the interim like reading and visiting people. I guess “The Longest Yard” going back to my days of football I enjoyed that.

FAVORITE FOOD:
Chicken and seafood. My wife and I are from both the waters. My wife is from the Washington D.C. area near the Patomac and I’m from Gulfport, Miss. off the great gulf and sea foods like shrimps and lobsters and crabs and things of that nature and a lot of vegetables. We’re pretty healthy eaters.

FAVORITE NFL TEAM AS A CHILD:
It ended up being the New York Giants because I could watch them on television and I would root for the guys in the black jerseys during the black and white TV days and it ended up being the New York Giants.

FAVORITE NFL STADIUM OTHER THAN TIGER STADIUM OR THE PONTIAC SILVERDOME:
I loved Kezar Stadium (in San Francisco) because of the grass, I loved all the grass fields. I love Lambeau Field particularly after what the late great Vince Lombardi did for it, when he put the first heated coils under those Central Division fields. Chicago was as cold as asphalt, Detroit; Tiger Stadium was asphalt I mean it was just so hard. But Green Bay; Lambeau Field with the heating coils underneath it was more palatable than the other three Central Division fields.

WHY DID YOU PICK NO. 20?
I didn’t pick 20. I came in and I wanted 26 because I wore 26 in college and I still wanted to put some fire under the number 26. But when I got here the head equipment manager by the name of Roy Macklem, a Canadian brother, I went up and asked for 26 and he said no 26 is out. He threw jersey number 20 right in my chest and he said ‘here wear this rook’ and I said “well I’ll put some fire under this as well.’ So it didn’t turn out to be a bad jersey. There were over 27,000 yards gained in the number 20 jersey. I had a little over 4,300 yards from punt returns and interception returns, then I presented it to Billy Sims and he put around 10,000 rushing yards on it and then the next guy was Barry Sanders which gained the rest of the yards. So it wasn’t a bad jersey and they finally retired it about four years ago for the trilogy of us, Billy, Barry and Barney.

DID YOU HAVE ANY PRE-GAME SUPERSTITIONS?
Yeah, it was in the locker room pre-dress really, pregame, I was ready once I hit the field. I would always dress left to right. I would get my ankles taped first left ankle then right ankle. My wrists would be taped I’d tape my left wrist then my right wrist and I would dress the same way. I didn’t call it superstitious I called it an idiosyncrasy.


Watch: Lem Barney recalls his favorite NFL moment.

WHAT’S BETTER ABOUT THE NFL TODAY THAN WHEN YOU PLAYED?
Outside of the money…the game is still a man’s game. I think it’s gotten a little more brutal today. I see the evolution of the game being a bigger, stronger, faster and quicker game merely because of the advantage that they have to study the game today. The weight training is different from the years in which I played and the studying the game is much different…it’s a much smarter game today than when I played.

WHAT WAS BETTER ABOUT THE NFL DURING YOUR CAREER THAN THE GAME TODAY?
I don’t think the game was as violent during the years that I played as it is today. They’ve got a lot of big guys today bigger, stronger, faster and quicker. The game is accelerated because of the weight training program is accelerated. I worked out every day during the offseason as I still do now, but the guys today get paid to work out in the off season as compared to when we played we worked out every day in the offseason and didn’t get paid a quarter for it.

FAVORITE ATHLETE EVER IN ANY SPORT:
I loved Dave Bing from Syracuse and when he came up to the Pistons. I had a lot of teammates that I had a big heart for, Harold Jackson who I played against, John Outlaw and the Richardson boys, they had six brothers, all of them played wide receiver and three of them played in the National Football League Willie Richardson, Gloster Richardson and Thomas Richardson. It was great watching these guys and playing with them.

ONE PERSON WHO INFLUENCED YOU MOST IN LIFE:
It wasn’t just one it was two, Lem and Berdell Barney. Mom and dad will always be my heroes. They were the greatest parents the Lord put on the planet. There is not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t remember them fondly in prayers and ask the lord to allow their souls to forever rest in peace.

TOUGHEST PLAYER YOU FACED:
I played some ball against some tough guys like Gale Sayers, Paul Warfield, Charley Taylor, Bobby Mitchell and Otis Taylor they were just some great guys. That’s the thing about the league not just in one era but through all the eras there has just been some tremendously great athletes. Bart Starr one of my favorites, Bart and I are still best friends. Joe Namath, “Broadway,” just a great guy, every time he threw a ball it whistled so if you were in bump-and-run you could know when Joe’s ball is coming at you. John Brodie another great guy, and Sonny Jurgenson.

WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR HALL OF FAME CAREER?
Well it’s something that you’ll be in glee over all your life and you should be; I never thought that I would have that as a Hall of Famer. Playing in seven Pro Bowls and missing two others by just a few percentage points didn’t make a difference because the whole key to playing in the league is you want to win. Playing in the Central Division when I got here in 1967 it was the Green Bay Packers under the great Vince Lombardi that won the first back-to-back Super Bowls. Then there was the Vikings who were just our nemesis, they had a 14-game win streak on us. And finally after coach Forzano became head coach for the Detroit Lions out of Navy we broke the streak. I intercepted a last-ditch effort long past by Fran Tarkenton to Ahmad Rashad to break the jinx. Playing in the Central Division was just a joy, because they had some great players there and I will always remember those.

WAS YOUR FORMER COACH JIM DAVID YOUR ONLY CHOICE AS A PRESENTER?
No, I had some other presenting choices, but I think my whole game was solidified by the teaching and training of the great late Jimmy David, the “Hatchet” we called him. Once I talked it over with the wife there was no question about who I was going to get to present me into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

IF YOU COULD DO YOUR ENSHRINEMENT SPEECH OVER TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY DIFFERENTLY?
I wouldn’t say a thing different. I would say the same thing, I’d have to it would be the truth. What I said then will always be mandated.

WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OFF THE FOOTBALL FIELD?
Being in the ministry now for 36 years as associate pastor at Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Mich. and having my walk with the Lord never ended.



Behind the Bronze series archive>>>

 

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