Richard Lane (April 16, 1928 – January 29, 2002), commonly known as Dick "Night Train" Lane, was an American football player. A native of Austin, Texas, he played professional football in the National Football League (NFL) for 14 years as a defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams (1952–1953), Chicago Cardinals (1954–1959), and Detroit Lions (1960–1965).
As a rookie in 1952, Lane had 14 interceptions, a mark that remains an NFL record more than 65 years later. He played in the Pro Bowl seven times and was selected as a first-team All-NFL player seven times between 1956 and 1963. His 68 career interceptions ranked second in NFL history at the time of his retirement and still ranks fourth in NFL history. He was also known as one of the most ferocious tacklers in NFL history and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974. He was also named to the NFL's all-time All-Pro team in 1969 and its 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994. In 1999, he was ranked number 20 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.
After retiring from professional football, Lane worked for the Detroit Lions in various administrative positions from 1966 to 1972 and then held assistant coaching positions at Southern University (1972) and Central State University (1973). For 17 years from 1975 to 1992, he was in charge of Detroit's Police Athletic League.
|Night Train Lane|
Lane in 1962 with the Lions
|Born:||April 16, 1927|
|Died:||January 29, 2002 (aged 74)|
|Height:||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Weight:||194 lb (88 kg)|
|High school:||Anderson (Austin, Texas)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Lane was born in Austin, Texas, in April 1928. When he was three months old, he was abandoned by his birth parents, a prostitute and pimp. He was found, covered in newspapers, in a dumpster. Lane later recalled, "My father was called Texas Slim. I never saw him - I don't know if he's the one that told my mother to throw me away. A pimp told my mother I had to go. They put me in a trash can and took off. Some people heard me crying. They thought it was a cat."
Lane was adopted and raised by Ella Lane, who also had four other children. As a youth in Austin, Lane grew up poor, busing tables at local hotels and shining shoes on Congress Avenue. He also helped his mother with a laundry business she ran out of the home. Lane became known as "Cue Ball" and later recalled how he acquired the nickname: "I was in a pool hall in 12th street. We were playing for money, maybe a dime. As soon as I made the eight ball, the other guy took off running. He didn't want to pay. I grabbed that cue ball and just as he made the corner I threw it and hit him upside the head. The guy didn't know what had hit him."
Lane attended L.C. Anderson High School, Austin's segregated high school for African Americans. He played basketball and football and was a member of the school's 1945 and 1946 football teams. The 1945 team was runnerup in the Prairie View Interscholastic League, an association of black schools in Texas.
After graduating from high school, Lane lived for a time in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with his birth mother, Johnnie Mae King. She had visited during Lane's youth, and the two reconciled. His mother and a man had opened a tavern in Council Bluffs. While in Council Bluffs, a baseball scout signed Lane, and he played for a time with the Omaha Rockets, a farm team for the Kansas City Monarchs.
In the fall of 1947, Lane enrolled at Scottsbluff Junior College in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. He played one season of college football at Scottsbluff. He was the only African American player on the team, and a clipping from the college newspaper noted, "He is outstanding for his vicious tackles, hard running and pass snatching." The Scottsbluff football team compiled a 5-3-1 record with Lane in the lineup in 1947 and finished in third place in the Nebraska Junior College Conference.
In 1948, Lane enlisted in the United States Army and served for four years. He served at Fort Ord on Monterey Bay in California and played on a Fort Ord football team. In 1951, he caught 18 touchdown passes for Fort Ord. He received second-team All-Army honors in 1949 and first-team honors in 1951. After his discharge from the Army, Lane worked in an aircraft plant in Los Angeles, lifting heavy sheets of metal out of a bin and placing them into a press.
While working at the aircraft plant in Los Angeles, Lane passed the Los Angeles Rams offices on his bus ride to work. He walked into the office with a scrapbook of clippings in 1952 and asked for a tryout. He was recommended to the Rams by Gabby Sims and signed as a free agent. Lane initially tried out as a receiver, the position he had played at Fort Ord, but was switched to a defensive back by the Rams. In the Rams' first scrimmage on August 3, 1952, Lane drew praise as "the outstanding player in the scrimmage by a country mile" due to his "ferocious" approach to the game and his speed in chasing down Elroy Hirsch. After the scrimmage, Rams head coach Joe Stydahar said, "Lane came out here to make the ball club. Well, last night he got himself a job."
Lane acquired the nickname "Night Train" during his first training camp with the Rams. Teammate Tom Fears had a record player in his room and frequently played the record, "Night Train", by Jimmy Forrest. The record was released in March 1952 and was the #1 R&B hit for seven weeks. According to an account published by the Los Angeles Times in August 1952, "Whenever Fears plays it Lane can be found in the hall outside Tom's room dancing to the music." Lane was initially uncomfortable with the racial implication of the nickname, which had been bestowed on him by his white teammates, but he embraced it after a newspaper reported on his performance against Washington Redskins star Choo Choo Justice with the headline, "Night Train Derails Choo Choo".
As a rookie in 1952, Lane appeared in all 12 regular season games and broke the NFL single season record with 14 interceptions. He also led the league with 298 interception return yards and two interceptions returned for touchdowns. In his first NFL game, a 37-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Lane was credited by the Los Angeles Times with playing "a positively sensational game at defensive halfback (he made about 50% of the tackles)." On December 7, 1952, he intercepted three passes in 45-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers, including an 80-yard return of a pass from Tobin Rote. The following week, he intercepted three more passes in a 28-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, including one that he returned 42 yards for a touchdown. However, he sprained an ankle after making his third interception against the Steelers and was lost to the Rams for their playoff game against the Detroit Lions. The NFL later prepared a list of the greatest single-season performances of all time and ranked Lane's 1952 season fourth on that list.
After Lane blocked two field goal attempts during a July 1953 scrimmage, Rams coach Hamp Pool said, "Night Train has the reflexes of a cat. It just doesn't seem possible that a man can come in from so far out and get in front of the ball in a matter of a couple of seconds." During the 1953 season, Lane appeared in 11 games for the Rams, but he intercepted only three passes. The highlight of his 1953 season was a blocked field goal against the Green Bay Packers; Lane blocked the kick at the Rams' 25-yards line, caught it on the bounce 45 yards downfield, and returned it for a touchdown.
In January 1954, the Rams traded Lane to the Chicago Cardinals in a three-team deal that also involved Don Doll. During the 1954 season, Lane appeared in all 12 regular season games for the Cardinals and again led the NFL in both interceptions (10) and interception return yards (181). Lane was occasionally used as a receiver by the Cardinals, and on November 13, 1955, he caught a pass from Ogden Compton, a play that covered 98 yards, the second longest pass in NFL history up to that time.
Lane remained with the Cardinals for six seasons from 1954 through 1959, appearing in 68 games and intercepting 30 passes. During his years with the Cardinals, Lane received All-NFL honors in 1954 (AP and UPI second team), 1955 (UPI second team), 1956 (AP and UPI first team), 1957 (Sporting News first team), 1958 (AP second team), 1959 (NEA first team). He was also invited to play in the Pro Bowl in 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1958.
On August 22, 1960, the Cardinals traded Lane to the Detroit Lions in exchange for lineman Gerry Perry. Lions great Joe Schmidt later called it "one of the greatest trades that will ever be made in any sport." At the time of the trade, Lions head coach George Wilson noted: "He has a reputation as a gambler. We are aware of that but he still has speed and experience."
In the Lions' first win of the 1960 season, a 30-17 victory over the Baltimore Colts, Lane intercepted a Johnny Unitas pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown, quickly becoming a fan favorite in Detroit. In his first two seasons with the Lions, Lane intercepted 11 passes for 175 return yards. In all, Lane played six seasons with the Lions from 1960 to 1965, appearing in 66 games with 21 interceptions for 272 yards. During his time with the Lions, Lane received All-NFL honors in 1960 (UPI, NEA, and Sporting News first team), 1961 (AP, NEA, and Sporting News first team), 1962 (AP, UPI, Sporting News, and NEA first team), 1963 (UPI and Sporting News first team). He was also invited to play in the Pro Bowl in 1960, 1961, and 1962.
Lane appeared in the 1962 Pro Bowl despite suffering from appendicitis. Weakened and in pain, he blocked an extra point kick and intercepted a Y. A. Tittle pass and returned it 42 yards for the West All-Stars. He checked into a Los Angeles hospital the next day and had his appendix removed.
In early July 1963, Lane married jazz singer Dinah Washington and began serving as her business manager, leading to reports that he may not continue his football career. However, he signed a contract with the Lions in late July. Lane intercepted five passes and recovered two fumbles in 14 games for the 1963 Lions.
Lane was hampered by injuries after the 1963 season. In August 1964, he was injured in a pre-season game, had surgery on his knee, and was out of action for the first part of the 1964 season. Lane ultimately appeared in seven games for the 1964 Lions, managing only one interception, the lowest total of his career up to that point.
On September 7, 1965, after undergoing off-season knee surgery, Lane, at age 37, was released by the Lions. When no other team claimed him, Lane returned to the Lions as a taxi squad player. He was returned to the active lineup on October 20, 1965, appearing in seven games with no interceptions for the first time in his career.
Lane was known as a ferocious tackler, and his style of play led to changes in the rules of the game. In 1961, he tackled Jon Arnett by the face mask as he ran at full speed down the field. Arnett lay motionless on the field after the tackle, and the play left a lasting impression. The following year, the NFL adopted a rule prohibiting the grasping of an opponent's face mask.
Lane's practice of tackling opponents about the head and neck, which was then a legal technique, was sometimes called a "Night Train Necktie". It later became known as a clothesline tackle and prohibited. He later explained the rationale for his practice of necktie tackling:
My object is to stop the guy before he gains another inch. ... [I]f I hit them in the legs they may fall forward for a first down. ... I grab them around the neck so I can go back to the bench and sit down.
In 2009, a film produced by the NFL ranked Lane No. 2 on its list (behind Dick Butkus) of the most feared tacklers in league history. The film also credited Lane's practices with the prohibition of clothesline tackles.
In the book Paper Lion by George Plimpton, former Detroit Lions assistant coach Aldo Forte recalled a hit that Lane placed on then New York Giants quarterback Y. A. Tittle in 1962 that literally "knocked the plays out of his head", rendering the quarterback unable to remember any of the Giants' plays until after halftime.
During his 14 years in the NFL, Lane recorded 68 interceptions, 1,207 interception return yards, and five touchdowns on interception. From 1954 to 1963, he was selected as a first-team All-NFL player seven times and played in seven Pro Bowls. His single-season record of 14 interceptions still stands despite the lengthening of the NFL season from 12 to 16 games. Lane's 68 career interceptions ranked second in NFL history at the time of his retirement and still ranks fourth in NFL history as of the end of the 2015 NFL season. His 1,207 interception return yards also ranked second in NFL history when he retired and still ranks sixth in NFL history. His 298 interception return yards in 1952 was three yards short of the NFL record at the time and remains the seventh best single-season total in NFL history.
Lane has received numerous honors for his contributions to the sport. His honors include the following:
After retiring from professional football, Lane worked for the Detroit Lions in various administrative positions. He was the first African American to work in the Lions' front office. In February 1972, Lane quit his job with the Lions to become an assistant football coach at Southern University, a historically black university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He left Southern University in June 1973 to become an admissions counselor and assistant football coach at Central State University, a historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio. In January 1974, he resigned his position at Central State to accept a job in Los Angeles as a bodyguard and personal assistant for television star, Redd Foxx.
In October 1975, Lane was hired to manage Detroit's Police Athletic League. He remained in charge of the program for 17 years and oversaw its expansion to 16 centers with 20,000 participants. He retired from the post at the end of 1992.
In July 1963, Lane married jazz singer Dinah Washington at a ceremony in Las Vegas. It was the seventh marriage for Washington and the second for Lane. On December 14, 1963, Lane discovered Washington dead at their home at 4002 Buena Vista Street in Detroit with a bottle of prescription pills on the night stand beside her.
In 1964, Lane married school teacher Mary Cowser, who in 1955 became the first African American woman to appear in Coca-Cola advertisements. They had a son, Richard Ladimir Lane, who was born in 1965. The marriage ended in divorce after ten years.
In 1994, Lane moved from Detroit back to his hometown of Austin, Texas. Due to reduced mobility from diabetes and knee injuries, he spent the last two years of his life at the Five Star Assisted Living facility in North Austin. He died there from a heart attack in January 2002 at age 73, after playing dominoes and while listening to jazz in his room. His family believed that he also suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) brought on by football-related Injuries.
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The Associated Press (AP), Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), New York Daily News (NYDN), The Sporting News (SN), and United Press International (UPI) selected All-Pro teams comprising their selections of the best players at each position in the National Football League (NFL) during the 1958 NFL season.1960 All-Pro Team
Selectors of All-Pros for the 1960 National Football League season included the Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), New York Daily News (NYDN), Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), and The Sporting News (SN).1961 All-Pro Team
The Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), Pro Football Illustrated (PFI), New York Daily News (NYDN), Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), and Sporting News (SN) were among selectors of All-Pros for the 1961 National Football League season.1962 All-Pro Team
The following is a list of players that were named to the Associated Press All-Pro Team in 1962. Players from the first and second teams are listed, with players from the first team in bold, where applicable.1963 All-Pro Team
The following is a list of players that were named to the Associated Press National Football League's All-Pro Team in 1963.
Players from the first and second teams are listed, with players from the first team in bold, where applicable.Anderson High School (Texas)
L.C. Anderson High School is a public high school located in the city of Austin, Texas, United States. It is a part of the Austin Independent School District.Dan Sandifer
Daniel Padgett Sandifer (March 1, 1927 – August 15, 1987), was an American football defensive back who played with six National Football League teams from 1948 to 1953. Because of World War II, he was one of the few college football players to play in two College All-Star Games. He currently holds the Washington Redskins team record for most interceptions in a season (13) set in his rookie year, 1948. This record has been surpassed only once in NFL history by Dick “Night Train” Lane with 14 INTs in 1952 playing for the Los Angeles Rams.Dick LeBeau
Charles Richard LeBeau ( lə-BOH; born September 9, 1937) is an American football coach and former cornerback, who was last an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). He was active at field level in the NFL for 59 consecutive seasons – 14 as a player with the Detroit Lions and 45 as a coach. He is considered to be one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time. Considered an “innovator” and “defensive football genius”, LeBeau popularized the "zone blitz" when he was defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1980s.
On February 6, 2010, LeBeau was selected into the 2010 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The entire 2010 Steelers team attended the induction ceremony.Lester Hayes
Lester Craig Hayes (born January 22, 1955) is a former professional American football player for the Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders of the National Football League (NFL).
Hayes was commonly referred to as "the Judge" and also as "Lester the Molester" because of his bump and run coverage. He had a distinct stance, crouching very low when facing the opposing wide receiver. He was also known for using Stickum before it was banned in 1981 by a rule bearing his name.List of National Football League annual interceptions leaders
An interception, also known as a pick, is a gridiron football concept involving a pass being caught by an opposition player, who usually gains possession for his team. Record-keeping for interception counts in the National Football League (NFL) began in 1940. The record for most interceptions in a single season is held by Night Train Lane, who logged 14 interceptions as a rookie in 1952, while playing for the Los Angeles Rams. Previously Dan Sandifer of Washington and Spec Sanders jointly held the record, earning 13 interceptions, in 1948 and 1950, respectively. The record for most league-leading seasons in interceptions is 3. This was first achieved by Everson Walls, who led the league in interceptions in 1981, 1982, and again in 1985. Ed Reed was later able to match Walls, by leading the league in 2004, 2008, and 2010. Bill Bradley became the first player to led the league in interceptions in consecutive seasons (1971 and 1972). The aforementioned Walls matched Bradley with his 1981 and 1982 efforts. The most recent players to lead the league in interceptions are Kyle Fuller , Xavien Howard, and Damontae Kazee with 7 in 2018. Additionally, New York Giants players have led the league in interceptions in more seasons (7), than any other team.List of National Football League career interceptions leaders
This is the list of National Football League (NFL) players, who have recorded at least 50 interceptions.Los Angeles Rams statistics
This page details statistics about the Los Angeles Rams American football franchise, formerly the St. Louis Rams and the Cleveland Rams.National Football League 1950s All-Decade Team
This is a list of all NFL players who had outstanding performances throughout the 1950s and have been compiled together into this fantasy group. The team was selected by voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame retroactively in 1969 to mark the league's 50th anniversary.
N1 Team that belonged to the All-America Football Conference for at least part of the player's tenureNational Football League 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
The National Football League 75th Anniversary All-Time Team was chosen by a selection committee of media and league personnel in 1994 to honor the greatest players of the first 75 years of the National Football League (NFL). Five players on the list were on NFL rosters at the time of the selections: Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson, Reggie White, and Ronnie Lott. Gale Sayers was named to the team as both a halfback and kickoff returner. Every player is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, except for Billy "White Shoes" Johnson.Ogden Compton
Ogden Bingham Compton (born August 25, 1932) is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League. He played for the Chicago Cardinals. He played college football for Hardin–Simmons.
On November 13, 1955, Compton threw the only touchdown pass of his NFL career, a completion to Dick "Night Train" Lane that covered 98 yards, the second longest pass in NFL history up to that time.Omaha Rockets
The Omaha Rockets were a semi-pro, independent Negro league baseball team in Omaha, Nebraska from (year-year). Gene Collins and Bob Gibson both began their careers with the team. Pro Football Hall of Famer Night Train Lane also played briefly for the Rockets after graduating high school.Paper Lion
Paper Lion is a 1966 non-fiction book by American author George Plimpton.
In 1960, Plimpton, not an athlete, arranged to pitch to a lineup of professional baseball players in an All-Star exhibition, presumably to answer the question, "How would the average man off of the street fare in an attempt to compete with the stars of professional sports?" He chronicled this experience in his book, Out of My League.
To write Paper Lion, Plimpton repeated the experiment in the National Football League, joining the training camp of the 1963 Detroit Lions on the premise of trying out to be the team's third-string quarterback. Plimpton, then 36 years old, showed how unlikely it would be for an "average" person to succeed as a professional football player. The book is an expanded version of Plimpton's two-part series which appeared in back-to-back issues of Sports Illustrated in September 1964. The book's epilogue is also an expanded article from Sports Illustrated which appeared one year later.Plimpton had contacted several teams about his idea including his hometown New York Giants and New York Titans (an American Football League team that would change their name to the New York Jets) and Baltimore Colts. The Lions finally agreed to host Plimpton in their training camp. The coaches were aware of the deception but the players were not until it became apparent that Plimpton did not know how to receive the snap from center. Despite his struggles Plimpton convinced head coach George Wilson to let him take the first five snaps of the annual intra-squad scrimmage conducted in Pontiac, Michigan. Plimpton managed to lose yardage on each play.
Feeling confident he could do better, Plimpton hung around training camp one more week as the team prepared for its first pre-season game against the Cleveland Browns, being sure if the Lions had a big enough lead near the end of the game, Wilson would let him play. However, team officials informed Plimpton at halftime that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle would not allow him to play under any circumstance. The next day Plimpton packed up and ended his experiment. Before he left, however, the Lions awarded him a gold football that was engraved: "To the best rookie football player in Detroit Lions history."The book is memorable as one of the first to showcase the personalities of the players and coaches and what happens off the field. Figuring prominently in the book are linebacker Wayne Walker, quarterback Milt Plum, future Hall of Famers cornerback Dick "Night Train" Lane and middle linebacker Joe Schmidt, and defensive tackle Alex Karras, among others. However, Karras's inclusion is exclusively through the stories about him told by teammates, coaches and other team personnel. Karras missed the 1963 season serving a suspension for gambling on football games.Prior to Paper Lion, Plimpton had pitched to major league baseball players and sparred with boxing great Archie Moore, but the success of this book, which was later adapted into a 1968 film starring Alan Alda as Plimpton, helped launch a kind of second career for Plimpton as an everyman athlete. Plimpton followed Paper Lion with books about golf and ice hockey, as well as two more football books.
In an interview with Tom Bean and Luke Poling, the filmmakers of the documentary, Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself, Joe Schmidt talked about how the team reacted to Plimpton's presence. "He tried to blend in with the rest of the team, but after a while you could just see that George wasn't much of an athlete. You don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to figure that one out. You're in training camp and you're all pretty good football players, and George comes along, and he's sort of emaciated looking, you know he's not too physical of a specimen. And he couldn't throw the ball more than 15 yards."Yale Lary
Robert Yale Lary Sr. (November 24, 1930 – May 11, 2017) was an American football player, businessman, and politician.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979 and was also selected for the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team. He has also been inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
Lary played 11 seasons in the National Football League (NFL), all with the Detroit Lions, from 1952 to 1953 and from 1956 to 1964, missing the 1954 and 1955 seasons due to military service as an Army second lieutenant in Korea. He played at the safety, punter, and return specialist positions, appeared in nine Pro Bowl games, and was a first-team All-NFL player five times. He led the NFL in punting three times, and at the time of his retirement in 1964, his 44.3 yard punting average ranked second in NFL history, trailing only Sammy Baugh. He also totaled 50 NFL interceptions for 787 return yards, both of which ranked fifth in NFL history at the time of his retirement.
A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Lary played college football at Texas A&M University from 1949 to 1951 and was selected as a first-team defensive back on the 1951 All-Southwest Conference football team. He also played baseball at Texas A&M, led his team to the 1951 College World Series, and set a Southwest Conference record for doubles.
|Led the league|
|First-team Special Teams|
|Second-team Special Teams|
|Wide receivers /|
Italics denotes players who have been voted in but not yet inducted.