In this Friday edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we pay tribute to a yeoman performer who excelled on special teams as well as offensively in the first decade of the Lions’ Silverdome era.
67. Leonard Thompson
Wide Receiver / Halfback. 1975-86 Detroit
Leonard Thompson, at 5-foot-11, 192 pounds was maybe, pound-for-pound, the toughest player in Lions’ history. He endeared himself to Lion fans by excelling at special teams throughout his career, as well as having the knack for the big-play. Thompson was an unheralded eighth-round pick for Detroit in the 1975 draft out of Oklahoma State. He would spend his first five-seasons as a backup at halfback and wideout. As a result, Thompson’s career-totals to that point stood at 39 carries for 110 yards, 44 receptions for 712 yards, and 8 touchdowns. The highlight of his early years may have come on December 11, 1977 when he blocked a Baltimore Colt field goal and returned it for a touchdown. That play came with just with 14 seconds left in the game, and gave the Lions an improbable 13-10 victory. In 1980, he would finally move into the starting lineup at receiver opposite Freddie Scott. While he only managed to catch 19 passes and 3 touchdowns in his first season as a starter, those 19 grabs totaled 511 yards, for an amazing 26.9 yard-per-catch average.
Thompson would go on to catch another 214 passes over the next six-seasons, with 26 of those going for touchdowns. He would lead the Lions in receiving in 1985 with 51 catches, for 736 yards and 5 scores. Thompson’s career would end when the Lions released him before the start of the 1987 season. He currently stands in ninth place on the Lions’ career receptions list with 277. His 4,682 receiving yards place him sixth all-time. Finally, Leonard’s 39 career touchdowns rank fifth in franchise history, behind only Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Calvin Johnson and Billy Sims.