Dick Lane (American football)
Lane in 1962
|Date of birth:||April 16, 1927|
|Place of birth:||Austin Texas|
|Date of death:||January 29, 2002(aged 74)|
|Place of death:||Austin, Texas|
|Height:||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Weight:||194 lb (88 kg)|
|High school:||Austin (TX) Anderson|
|Career highlights and awards|
Richard "Dick" Lane (April 16, 1927 – January 29, 2002) nicknamed "Night Train", was an American football player, best known as a defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Cardinals and Detroit Lions. During his rookie season in 1952, Lane established the record for most interceptions in an NFL season (14), a record that has stood for over 60 years, despite the fact that the regular season is 33% longer today than it was in 1952, and that NFL teams pass considerably more than ever before in history. He went undrafted in 1952, and was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was born in Austin, Texas and raised by Ella Lane, a woman who found him abandoned as an infant. After graduation from L.C. Anderson Hight School, he spent one year at Scottsbluff Junior College, Nebraska, before dropping out and serving four years in the United States Army.
In 1952, the 24-year-old Lane showed up at the Los Angeles Rams training camp looking for a job because he disliked his occupation at an aircraft factory. He was originally trying out for wide receiver, but the Rams switched him to defensive back. It is commonly circulated that he acquired the nickname "Night Train" from a hit record by Jimmy Forrest (A #1 R&B hit for 7 weeks in 1952) frequently played by teammate Tom Fears, but this is actually a complete misconception as Lane had gotten the nickname after taking the night trains to away games because of his fear of flying. He initially disliked the nickname, but it grew on him after it gained national attention, first appearing in print describing a tackle in a Rams exhibition game: Dick "Night Train" Lane derails Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice. He wore number 81, unusual for a defensive back, because he was initially projected as a tight end. The receivers playing in front of him on the Rams, Fears and Elroy Hirsch, were stars and future Hall of Famers, so coach Joe Stydahar tried Lane at defensive back.
In his rookie season he set an NFL single season record for interceptions with 14, which stands to this day even though the length of the season at the time was only 12 games (it was expanded to 14 games in 1961 and 16 in 1978). Lane recorded many interceptions by using a "Bait-and-Switch" technique: he would cover a receiver loosely to "bait" the quarterback into throwing a pass, but then quickly close the gap and make the interception.
He was traded to the Chicago Cardinals in 1954 and to the Detroit Lions in 1960. He played six seasons in Detroit (1960–65) and recorded 21 interceptions for 272 yards and one touchdown. He was All-NFL four times (1960–63) and was named to the Pro Bowl three times (1961–63).
He was particularly noted as a hard hitter, who liked to tackle opponents about the head and neck, which was then a legal technique. 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 Giant's quarterback Y.A. Tittle in 1962 that literally "knocked the plays out of his head", rendering the quarterback unable to remember any of the Giant's plays until after halftime. Lane's style of tackling was sometimes called a Night Train Necktie.
In 1969, Lane was named the best cornerback of the first fifty years of professional football, then enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974. In his 14 NFL seasons, Lane recorded 68 interceptions, 1,207 interception return yards, five touchdowns, 11 fumble recoveries, 57 fumble return yards, one touchdown, eight receptions, 253 receiving yards, one touchdown reception, and four punt returns for 14 yards.
In 1999, he was ranked number 19 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, making him the highest-ranked defensive back, the Cardinals' highest-ranked player and the Lions' second highest-ranked player after Barry Sanders. He also placed number 2 on NFL Network's "Top 10 Greatest Undrafted Players".
He is also in the Federation of Christian Athletes Hall of Champions.(Class of 1991)
Lane was married three times, one of which was to jazz singer Dinah Washington, and was the last of her seven husbands at the time of her death on December 14, 1963. Lane is survived by two sons, Richard Andrew Walker of Detroit and Richard Ladimir Lane of Detroit; one grandson, and five granddaughters.
Lane died of a heart attack on January 29, 2002. He had spent his last two years in an assisted living facility due to reduced mobility from diabetes, bad knees, as well as issues related to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy CTE brought on by football-related Injuries.
- Paper Lion, Plimpton, 40th anniversary edition, pg. 136.