By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on July 5, 2014
Mount Rushmore has become the symbolic shrine where the best of the best reside over all others. For any list involving a Mount Rushmore, there can be many good and deserving candidates, but the list can only be limited to four. Greatness and the Detroit Lions have not meshed together since the 1950's, but the franchise has had several standout players. Here now is the Detroit Lions' Mount Rushmore.
The Lions have plenty of good candidates that are worthy of the franchise's Mount Rushmore, but some just barely missed the cut. Players like Dick LeBeau, Billy Sims, Charlie Sanders, Night Train Lane, Lem Barney, Alex Karras, and Jason Hanson would make any other list of great Lions players, but the following four players were the best in franchise history.
"The Toughest Quarterback Ever" according to Sports Illustrated, Layne quarterbacked the Lions to back-to-back NFL Championships in 1952-53 and he took them to the brink of the 1957 championship before going out late in the season with a broken leg. The Lions would then win the championship with backup Tobin Rote. Layne was the franchise's all-time passing leader for over 50 seasons until Matthew Stafford broke the record in 2013.
It’s unlikely that anyone will reach Jerry Rice’s receiving records, but Johnson has made his own mark since being drafted No. 2 overall by the Lions in 2007. Johnson already broke one record held by Rice when he set the single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964 in 2012, beating out Rice's 1,848 in 1995. Johnson also set the single-game record for receiving yards in regulation time with 329 against the Cowboys this past season.
A seventh-round pick in 1953, Schmidt worked his way into the lineup, helping Detroit win its second straight NFL title as a rookie. By 1956, Schmidt was named a team captain, a designation he held for the next nine years. He also helped Detroit win its most recent NFL Championship in 1957 by shutting down the vaunted Cleveland Browns in a 59-14 rout. Schmidt was a 4-time Lions MVP, a 10-time Pro Bowler, and his #56 has been retired.
Sanders is the greatest player in franchise history. In each of his 10 NFL seasons (all with Detroit), Sanders made the Pro Bowl. Barry was the featured running back on Detroit teams that made the playoffs five times during the 1990s, winning once in 1991. His best individual season came in 1997 when he rushed for 2,053 yards. At the time of his retirement in 1998, Sanders was second only to Walter Payton in career rushing yards.
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