In number eighty-seven in the countdown of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we remember another of a long line of Texas-born gridders who became one of the Lions’ better players from the mostly disappointing late 1970s era.
87. Dexter Bussey
Running Back. 1974-84 Detroit
Dexter Bussey was a steady, consistent performer for the Lions for eleven years. He was so steady and consistent that many Lion fans may not know that he remains Detroit’s third all-time leading rusher, behind two guys named Sanders and Sims. Dexter arrived in Motown as the Lions’ third-round selection in the 1974 draft out of the University of Texas-Arlington. After only touching the ball a combined 18 times as a rookie, the 6-foot-1, 195 pounder would move into the starting lineup in 1975, leading the Leos in rushing with 696 yards on 157 attempts. His teammates would reward him for his effort by voting him their 1975 offensive MVP. He would again lead the team on the ground in 1976, toting the pigskin 196 times for 858 yards.
After missing half of the team’s games in 1977, Dexter would have a career-year in 1978. That season, he would gain 924 yards on 225 carries, catch 31 passes for another 275 yards, and score a combined 6 touchdowns. He would again lead the team on the ground in 1979 with 625 yards, providing one of the lone bright spots on a 2-14 squad.
Then in 1980, Bussey would team with rookie newcomer Billy Sims to turn Detroit’s ground game into one of the NFL’s most feared. Dexter (720 yards) and Billy (1,303 yards) would combine to produce 2,023 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, helping the Lions catapult to a 9-7 record. It would be the team’s best finish in a decade, and would establish the Sims / Bussey backfield as one of the league’s best.
Dexter would retire as Detroit’s all-time leading rusher in 1984, with 5,105 yards. His 1,203 lifetime carries gives him an impressive 4.2 yard-per-carry average for his career. His 18-career rushing touchdowns tie him with Ernie Caddel for tenth-place in franchise history.