Joe Schmidt Detroit Lions

Because he had had a long history of injuries when he was playing college football at the University of Pittsburgh, the Detroit Lions didn’t select Joe Schmidt until the seventh round of the college draft in 1953.

When Schmidt started playing pro football, the Lions were traditionally a strong defensive team. Yet within a very short time after his first pro game, Joe was the defensive leader of the Lions. Later in his career, he was the team's field captain for nine straight seasons. He was voted to the NFL all-league team ten times. He was elected to the Pro Bowl ten straight years from 1955 through 1964 and his teammates voted him their Most Valuable Player four times.

For all of those honors, perhaps the finest accolade an athlete can earn is the universal respect of his opponents and teammates and Joe earned this kind of acclaim in abundance. Joe also can have the satisfaction of knowing that his presence played a big role in changing defensive play in professional football.

Schmidt didn't exactly create the middle linebacker position but it was a job that was developed in the 1950s with the change of the ordinary defensive structure to the 4-3 frontal alignment. Without question, he was the first to play the position with such finesse that even the masses in the stands could see the growing value of the "defensive quarterback." He anticipated plays with uncanny accuracy. He was a deadly tackler. He was fast enough to evade a 250-pound guard, to follow a play along the line or to drop back to cover a pass. He was strong enough to power past a potential blocker to crumble a play. But his greatest talent may well have been his uncanny knack of knowing what the opposition was going to do.