In this edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the two-way playmaker who caught the winning touchdown in the 1953 NFL championship.
53. Jim Doran
Offensive End / Defensive End. 1951-59 Detroit; 1960-61 Dallas Cowboys
The defining moment of Jim Doran’s NFL career came in the 1953 NFL Championship Game, when he beat Cleveland Brown defensive back Warren Lahr for the winning touchdown on a 33-yard pass from Bobby Layne. The TD gave the Lions a 17-16 come-from-behind victory over Paul Brown’s squad, and secured Detroit’s second-straight NFL title. Doran’s performance that day, four receptions for 95-yards and the touchdown, is all the more striking when you consider that three of those receptions came on the game-winning drive. In addition, he wasn’t even supposed to play offense that day as he came in to relieve the injured Leon Hart early in the first-quarter. It was just another day at the office for one of the most underrated and versatile players of that Lion championship era.
Doran came to the Lions as part of coach Buddy Parker’s stellar 1951 draft class, which included the likes of Dick Stanfel, Dorne Dibble, LaVern Torgeson, and future Hall of Famer Jack Christiansen. In 1952, Jim would be named the winner of the Lions’ inaugural Most Valuable Player Award as a defensive end. Parker would move him back to offense late in the 1953 season, as insurance for the injury-plagued Hart. The versatile Doran would alternate between offense and defense throughout most his Lion career. In the Lions’ championship season of 1957, he would lead the team in receptions with 33, good for 624 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Doran would finish his Lion career in 1959 with 168 catches, for 2,960 yards, and 19 touchdowns. He would move onto play two more seasons with the expansion Dallas Cowboys, earning his only career-trip to the Pro Bowl after the 1960 season.