June 27, 2014

Rookie of the Year: Lem Barney, 1967

Cornerback, Detroit Lions



Age: 22 (Sept. 8)
College: Jackson State
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 202

Prelude:
Recruited as a quarterback, Barney was shifted to cornerback and intercepted 26 passes in three college seasons and received All-Southwestern Conference honors after each. Although relatively unknown coming out of a small college, he was chosen by the Lions in the second round of the 1967 NFL draft and moved directly into the starting lineup.

1967 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 10 [1, tied with Dave Whitsell]
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. Minnesota 12/17
Int. return yards – 232 [1]
Most int. return yards, game – 75 (on 3 int.) vs. Minnesota 12/17
Int. TDs – 3 [1]
Fumble recoveries – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 5
Yards – 87
Average per return – 17.4
TDs – 0
Longest return – 25 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 4
Yards – 14
Average per return – 3.5
TDs – 0
Longest return – 6 yards

Punting
Punts – 47 [15]
Most punts, game – 9 vs. Chicago 11/5, vs. LA Rams 11/23
Yards – 1757 [15]
Average – 37.4 [15]
Best average, game – 41.0 (on 6 punts) at San Francisco 10/29
Punts blocked – 0
Longest punt – 55 yards

Scoring
TDs – 3
Points – 18

Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: AP
2nd team All-NFL: NEA, NY Daily News
Pro Bowl

Lions went 5-7-2 to finish third in the Central Division of the NFL Western Conference while surrendering the fewest TD passes (11).

Aftermath:
Barney followed up by achieving consensus first-team All-NFL honors as well as gaining selection to the Pro Bowl in 1968 and ’69. Physical as well as fast, he was an instinctive ball hawk and excellent in man-to-man coverage. He also had a kick return TD in each of the next three seasons. A contract dispute followed by an ankle injury led to a lesser performance in 1970, and while he still intercepted 7 passes, his tendency to gamble for the big play caused him to get burned often as well. He came back to regain Pro Bowl stature four more times in a career that lasted until 1977, all with the Lions. Overall, Barney intercepted 56 passes, seven of which were returned for touchdowns, and he also averaged 9.2 yards on 143 punt returns and 25.5 yards running back 50 kickoffs. Used less as a punter, he had a 35.5-yard average on 113 kicks. Barney had 11 TDs in all, a testament to his big-play ability, and five of them came on plays that covered over 50 yards. He was a consensus first-team All-Pro twice, received at least second-team recognition on three other occasions, and was named to the Pro Bowl seven times. Barney was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1992.

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Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

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