In this installment of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we pay homage to a member of the Lions’ famed Silver Rush who comes in at number eighty-nine.
89. William Gay
Defensive End / Defensive Tackle. 1978-87 Detroit; 1988 Minnesota Vikings
William Gay began his Lion career as a tight end. He would end his Lion career as a defensive end with what was at the time, the second-highest sack total in franchise history. The 6-foot-5, 250 pounder was a second-round choice of the Denver Broncos in the 1978 draft. The Lions obtained him on August 14 of that year, in exchange for defensive back Charlie West and a 1979 sixth-round pick.
William spent his rookie season at tight end, catching just a single pass all year. The Lions made a wise move when they switched William over to defense the following season. He served in a reserve capacity in 1979, and before moving to defensive end started at defensive tackle from 1980-82. The legendary Silver Rush defensive line was in full effect during this period. Manned by Gay, Dave Pureifory, Doug English and Al “Bubba” Baker, the line recorded 47 sacks in 1981, which remains the fifth-highest total in Lion history. During William’s time in Detroit, the Silver Rush members would garner a total of eight Pro Bowl appearances.
William’s best season would come during the Lions’ run to the NFC Central title in 1983, when he recorded a team-leading, and career-high, 13.5 sacks. That season, he also set a Lion single-game record with 5.5 sacks versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 4. At season’s end William would be voted Lion defensive MVP, as well as earn his lone career Pro Bowl selection. William would again lead the Lions in sacks the following season with 10 takedowns. He would end his Lion career in 1987 with 61 career sacks, a mark that currently ranks fourth in franchise history.