HOF Mail Bag: Lem Barney

HOF Mail Bag: Lem Barney

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Barney_induction What type of work ethic does it take to make it to the Hall of Fame and how has that discipline helped you in your post- NFL life? - Delfeayo

The biggest thing about it, it doesn’t start when you get into the professional ranks.  It’s pretty much a carryover from, as I look at, my career as it continued to blossom, it started out in middle school.  Working hard in practice, being disciplined in practice, studying plays, and each level of my growth from middle school to high school as well as college and in the league, it was all because of the fundamental disciplines that I tried to continue to carry myself..

And, as a result, you don’t go into the league looking or dreaming about getting into the Hall of Fame.  You think about the skills and the talents in which you’ve been blessed with by the Lord that you will lose them each time you play.  From that the whole scenario developed where seven years all-pro and rookie-of-the-year, leading in interceptions my rookie year.  From that, the skills had blossomed for me to be become a Hall of Famer, but it's all about the work ethics early on.

Hey Lem, who was the toughest wide receiver you ever went up against? - C.J. Harvey, Charlotte, NC

Barney-MB That’s a good question, I’ve been asked that many times.  There is no tough guy that I had a problem with.  There was always a great deal of talent in the league and I respected everybody that I faced each game. 

However, there were receivers that had different skills and talents.  There were receivers who could run expert patterns to the tee and there were receivers who were fast, some that were quick.  And you found receivers that had all the attributes of route running, speed as well as quickness.  But I respected everybody I played against on Sunday.

What type of wide receiver caused you the most frustration?  One with blazing speed, or one that ran perfect routes?  

Well, again, it’s through studying; knowing what a receiver and an offensive coordinator is going to try to do to you by way of what you did in your last three games.  Each team has an opportunity to watch the last three games, each team that you’re about to play the upcoming Sunday.  Understanding routes, recognition, downs and tendencies, and what offensive coordinators will try to do to you helped me a great deal of understanding what receivers will try to do, particularly in different downs and situations. 

Barney_MB-2As a former Lion, how difficult is it for you to watch the team have poor season after poor season and rarely make any noise in the playoffs?  - Denny Ettmueller

[Laughs] Well to tell you the truth, Denny, I still love sports.  I’ll watch baseball, I’ll watch basketball, I’ll watch golf, I’ll watch hockey and I’ll watch some football.  But my wife is a much bigger fan of watching football than me.  I’ll tune myself into the Lions on occasions, but I’m not engrossed with it.  I know that they have the talent, but assembling that talent and having someone to manage that talent where they’re working on one accord, it’s not always an easy job.

Dear Lem, What was one of your most memorable games? - Matt Brown

Well, all my games, I can remember them.  It’s been 29 years since I played actively in the league and I can remember every game from all 11 years.  There were many great highlights, there was some lowlights at well. 

I would imagine my first play, to be involved in a pass play was the second play of the game my rookie year in 1967 against the Green Bay Packers who were the defending Super Bowl champions.  First play from scrimmage, it's 15 minutes on the clock for the first quarter, [Bart] Starr reverse pivots and gives it in the middle to Elijah Pitts, a fullback, for three yards and now it’s second and seven to the wide side of the field to the rookie from Jackson State, Lem Barney.  Both [Vince] Lombardi as well as Starr loved to test and pick on rookies so he tried to throw a quick out to all-pro Carroll Dale.  He threw it low and away because he saw me closing, so I dove and did a forward shoulder roll, intercepted the ball, got up and ran it into the end zone for 29 yards for a touchdown.  First pass, first interception, a touchdown, my first game in the league, so it will always be memorable.

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