Lions Have a Strong Tradition of Pass Catchers
In the long and storied history of the Detroit Lion franchise, quality at the receiver positions has rarely been a question mark. Since the NFL passing game began to truly take flight in the 1940's, the Lions have been blessed time-and-again with excellent pass-catchers at a variety of positions. Below is the third installment in a six-part series paying tribute to the players who've established that legacy.
Part Three: The Pro Bowl Sixties
While the Lions had a revolving door at quarterback during the 1960's, their receiving corps was one of the NFL's best. Led by the likes of Gail Cogdill, Terry Barr, Pat Studstill, Jim Gibbons, and later Charlie Sanders, Detroit sent receivers to the Pro Bowl ten-times during the decade.
Gail Cogdill claimed three of those Hawaiian trips as his own. The 6-foot-3, 200 pounder was a sixth-round selection for the Lions out of Washington State in 1960. He earned his first Pro Bowl nod as a rookie with 43 receptions, for 642 yards (14.9 avg.) and 1 touchdown. He would lead the Lions in receptions in 1961 and '62, and catch a career best ten touchdowns in 1963. He would grab a total of 23 scoring-passes between 1961 and 1963.
Gail possessed skilled hands and great speed, often drawing the opponents best defensive back on game day. His best performance may have come against the Green Bay Packers in the famous "Thanksgiving Day Massacre" game of 1962. Facing future Hall of Fame defensive backs Herb Adderley and Willie Wood, Cogdill caught touchdown passes of 33, and 27 yards, respectively, during the first sixteen minutes of action. His touchdowns vaulted the Lions to a 14-0 lead, pacing them to their eventual 26-14 triumph. Cogdill still stands in sixth place on the Lions' career receptions list (325), as well as fourth in career yardage (5,221), and seventh in touchdown catches (28).
One of the most versatile players in Lions' history, Terry Barr began his career at defensive back, topping a successful rookie season with a 19-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Lions' 59-14 championship game win over the Cleveland Browns. Terry's versatility would cause him problems early in his career because he could never seem to find his niche on the team. After splitting time, with mixed results, between offense and defense during his first four seasons, in 1961, Lion skipper George Wilson gave Terry the opportunity to shine by moving him to flanker.
Over the next five seasons, Terry would catch 212 passes, for 3,604 yards and 34 touchdowns. He would become the first Lion receiver in history to earn back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, when he would gain 1,086, and 1,030 yards, respectively, during the 1963 and ‘64 seasons. Terry would catch 22 of his 35 career-touchdowns during those two seasons as well. In addition, Terry was named All-Pro in 1963 and earned Pro Bowl nods in 1963 and ‘64. His 3,810 career receiving yards and 35 touchdowns still place him seventh, and second, respectively, on the Lions' all-time list in those two categories.
Pat Studstill, a Louisiana native, played his college ball at the University of Houston and joined the Lions in 1961. The 6-foot, 180 pound Studstill spent the first three years of his Lion career mainly as a return man. Pat's breakout-year as a receiver came in 1966 as he caught 67 passes, for a league-leading 1,266 yards (18.9 avg.) and 5 touchdowns. That single-season yardage total remains the highest for any Lion receiver outside of the pass-happy 1990's trio of Herman Moore, Brett Perriman, and Germane Crowell.
Tight End Jim Gibbons, a college teammate of Alex Karras at Iowa, came along with the Mad Duck to Detroit as part of the Lions' 1958 amateur draft. The 6-foot-2, 220 pound end would become one of the Lions' best offensive stars during the next decade. He would earn Pro Bowl honors three-times during his career, after the 1960, ‘61, and ‘64 seasons. He had a career year in 1964, earning Lion MVP honors, catching 45 passes, for 605 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Gibbons' career highlight may have come during the legendary 1960 game versus the Colts in Baltimore. He rumbled across the goal line to score on a 65-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Earl Morrall as time expired. It was the game's third lead-change in the last 15 seconds of play, and gave the Lions the 20-15 victory.