Lary on a 1952 Bowman football card
|Position:||Safety / Punter|
|Date of birth:||November 24, 1930|
|Place of birth:||Fort Worth, Texas|
|NFL draft:||1952 / Round: 3 / Pick: 34|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Stats at NFL.com|
Robert Yale Lary, Jr. (born November 24, 1930) is a former American football player.
After graduating from North Side High School in 1949, he attended Texas A&M University, where he was a standout in football and baseball. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the third round in the 1952 NFL Draft.
Lary was a superlative defensive back from 1956 to 1964, with time out for a tour of Army duty in 1954 and 1955. Lary also became one of the best punters in the game's history upon his return from the service. He was a key contributor for the Lions as they claimed three NFL Championships in 1952, 1953 and 1957.
Lary played in the defensive backfield alongside Dick Lane, Jack Christiansen, and Jim David on "Chris's Crew" in the early 1960s, when Detroit was one of the best pro teams of the era. The position he played is known today as free safety—the center fielder of the defensive backfield. He made 50 career interceptions, and only recently (with expanded schedules allowing for more opportunities per season) has Lary been pushed from the top 20 list in NFL career interceptions.
Lary remains third on the Lions list, and his 787 career return yards is second in Detroit history behind Lem Barney's 1,015. He not only excelled as a safety, but he was an exceptional punter. Lary won punting titles in 1959, 1961 and 1963, missing another one in 1962 by just 3.6 inches. A year he didn't win, 1960, Detroit opponents averaged less than one yard per return on his punts. From the end zone, Lary could consistently punt past midfield with enough hang time to let the coverage team get downfield and do its work. According to Paul Hornung in 2004, he was the best punter ever.
Once, Lary had a string of six games and 32 punts with no returns, and he had just four punts blocked out of 503 in his career. Lary also returned kickoffs in 1952-53 and 1956, scored three times on punt returns (longest: 74 yards in 1953), was named All-NFL four times and played in nine Pro Bowls. Lary was also a member of the All-Decade Team of the 1950s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
- Yale Lary at the Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Career statistics and player information from Pro-Football-Reference • Databasefootball.com