Who is the most important draft pick in Detroit Lions history? Who is the one player that did the most for the organization on and off of the field?
The Lions have been in Detroit since 1934. They have had many great players from Earl ‘Dutch’ Clark to Barry Sanders. The team has had some success, but not much since winning their last NFL championship in 1957. So coming up with this selection is not easy.
How about halfback Ewell ‘Doak’ Walker?
Walker joined the Lions in 1950 as a Heisman Trophy winner out Southern Methodist University. Just by being chosen, he may have been the Lions most important pick for Walker was the All-American boy and hero for his time. His feats at Highland Park High in Texas already gave him legendary status. SMU made him even more of one. When he joined the Lions, they had not won anything since 1935. With the help of some outstanding teammates, Walker made Detroit one of the best teams of the decade.
The Lions brought Walker’s Highland Park teammate to Detroit in 1950 as quarterback Bobby Layne joined the team. Layne had played his college ball at SMU rival Texas. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1948 and expected to replace Sid Luckman. However, Chicago decided to go with Johnny Lujack and Layne eventually ended up in Detroit.
Together with head coach Buddy Parker and a strong defense, Walker and Layne began to lead the Lions to the top of the NFL. In 1952, Detroit faced the Cleveland Browns for the NFL championship. Walker broke the game open with a touchdown run of 67 yards and the Lions gave Cleveland only its second championship game loss.
In 1953, the Lions returned to the title game and once again faced the Browns. In this game, Walker scored the first touchdown on a short run. Then, with the score tied at 16 after a Layne touchdown pass to Jim Doran; Walker calmly kicked the extra point which gave them their second consecutive title.
Walker did not have a long career with the Lions. He only played six seasons. But he was rookie of the year in 1950 and All-Pro in four of them. Walker led the NFL in scoring in 1950 with 128 points.
What made Walker special was his ability to perform when the chips were down. Whenever the Lions needed a big play, Doak Walker was the man that they called on and he delivered. Before Walker and Layne, the Lions had won nothing. With them Detroit played in three consecutive championship games and won two. The Lions won the title without Walker in 1957 and have not been back to the big game since. In fact, Detroit has won only three playoff games since Walker retired in 1955. They have won only one since the Super Bowl was born in 1966.
For his play on the field during the Lions greatest era and his humble demeanor, Doak Walker may very well be the most important draft pick in Detroit Lions history.