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"It was like putting together a good pie. If you get the finest ingredients and do a skillful job of blending them together, you get a superior product. Well, our backfield was like that.”
(Colorado St.)...6'1'', 205...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).
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)
Jack Christiansen Enshrinement Speech 1970
Presenter: Buddy Parker
Well, thanks very much, except for one thing period a quarterback back in the early days, we could only throw six passes. Well, it's nice to be here again in Canton, and I think Ohio is one of the greatest football countries in the world. And, I have to say one thing, they really selected the right place to have the Hall of Fame. A lot of important positions in football, of course, all the positions are important, but probably one of the most difficult is the quarterback.
But then, whether you realize it or not, there’s a quarterback on defense, and that is a hard position to play. Jack Christiansen took care of all of our defenses, he maneuvered them around although you coach for years and weeks and so forth to prepare for a game situation that come up in a ball game that you just can't quite handle and yet they use your own initiative. Now, Jack, not only a great defensive player in every way, Jack could also play offense, and on several occasions, we played him on offense, and he ran for a couple of touchdowns against the Dallas Texans, in fact, he did everything well. He returned punts and he was a safety and he would return the punts and also the kickoffs. He was an all-around great football player period and it's really an honor to present Jack this time into the Hall of Fame. Thank you very much.
Thank you, very kindly buddy. I, uh, don't remember you saying all those nice things when we were talking contract. Nick Curbaway Why is our general manager in Detroit and he used to say that I miss so many tackles that I didn't cover this guy and I didn't cover that guy, that I wonder if we are talking about the same person. But it is a real honor for me and to be here to be inducted into the Hall of Fame now along with these other three people that are up here. Tom Fears played with the Rams and I never did cover him, that's why he caught all those passes and got in here. Pete Phos, I didn't play against Pete very many times, but I haven't covered him yet. We played against Hugh McElhenny two times a year, and I haven't tackled him yet. So, I don't know, I guess that I have the press and all the fans to thank for me being here, I understand that Roger Williams was instrumental in helping to get me inducted into the Hall of Fame, I would like to thank him personally. I had three coaches during my career, one in high school, Gordon Bug: my college coach, Bob Davis and Buddy Parker, and I would like to say that I owe a lot to all three of them and would like to thank you very kindly. The press and all you wonderful people In Ohio -- Thank you very much