In one week, the Detroit Lions will begin their eighty-second NFL season. To commemorate this much anticipated 2012/13 campaign, for the next 100 days, WaketheHerd.com will be presenting, in reverse order from 100 to 1, the top 100 Detroit Lions in franchise history. The list and rankings are compiled by yours truly and span the entire history of the franchise. As always, feedback is welcomed. Here is number 100:
100. Reggie Brown
Outside Linebacker. 1996-97 Detroit
When Reggie Brown’s career came to an end, due to a terrifying neck injury, in the 1997 regular-season finale against the New York Jets, there was little doubt that he was well on his way to becoming one of best linebackers in team history. Reggie was the Lions’ number-one draft choice in 1996 out of Texas A&M. The 6-foot-2, 241 pounder suffered an injury early in his first training camp, forcing him to miss six games as a rookie. However, during the ten games that he did play in that season he flashed some of the all-around ability that he would showcase as an NFL sophomore.
In his second season, the fully recovered Reggie broke out. He recorded 152 tackles that year, second only to teammate Stephen Boyd’s team-leading 192 stops. In addition, he recorded 2.5 sacks and intercepted 2 passes, returning them both for touchdowns. His high level of play throughout the year had many observers wondering how long it would be before Reggie began making regular end-of-season trips to Hawaii as a Lion Pro Bowler.
Unfortunately, like far too many Lions before him, Reggie Brown’s promising career would end with a freak injury. In the second-half of the Lions’ final regular season game of 1997, Reggie would break his neck while colliding with New York Jet guard, Lamont Burns. During the tense moments that followed the Lion medical staff worked feverishly on Reggie, who at one point had stopped breathing. Miraculously, they were able to revive Reggie and stabilize him for the trip to the hospital. At the hospital, he would have a halo placed around his head and neck to support his damaged spinal cord. In the beginning, doctors wondered if Reggie would be a quadriplegic.
Slowly however, the feeling returned to his extremities and on January 8, 1998, at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital, Reggie arose from his wheelchair and walked to the podium under his own power to face the media for the first time since his injury.
The next day, Reggie left Detroit and returned to his home state of Texas to begin his post-Lion career. However, like the other 99 athletes on this list, and the roughly 1,400 other men who’ve worn the uniform of the Detroit Lions, and their forerunners the Portsmouth Spartans, Reggie Brown will forever be a representative of one of the oldest and most storied franchises in the history of the National Football League.