In this days edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the man who held the teams single season and career rushing records for over three decades.
44. Leroy “Ace” Gutowsky
Fullback / Linebacker / Defensive Back. 1932-33 Portsmouth; 1934-38 Detroit; 1939 Brooklyn Dodgers
There was little doubt that the bread-and-butter running back for the Lions’ famed “Infantry Attack” backfield of the 1930’s was the 5-foot-11, 201 pound Ace Gutowsky. When the Lions were near the goal line, in the area known today as the “red zone,” it was no secret that the Lions’ Ace was likely to carry the pigskin over the white-stripe to paydirt.
“He was a hard line plunger,” his teammate Glenn Presnell recalled in a 2003 interview. Gutowsky would finish his career in 1938 as the Lions’ all-time leading rusher with 2,445 yards, on 698 carries. While those aren’t gaudy numbers by today’s standards, it should be noted that the football offenses of Ace’s day routinely spread their rushing attempts among four or more players. In the Lions’ case, the majority of the running load was spread amongst tailbacks Dutch Clark and Glenn Presnell, along with wingback Ernie Caddel, and fullbacks Bill Shepherd and Gutowsky. In addition to his abilities on offense, Gutowsky was also one of the hardest-hitting linebackers of his day. He helped the Lions’ 1934 defense give up an astonishingly low total of only 59 points over the entire 13-game slate. A total that was 26 points lower than any other team in the league that year.
In 1936, Ace would set a Lions’ single-season rushing record of 827 yards. It was a mark that would stand for 24 years, until Nick Pietrosante’s 872 yard effort in 1960. Gutowsky’s aforementioned career yardage mark of 2,445 yards would also stand until the 1960’s, when he was surpassed by Nick Pietrosante and Dan Lewis. His 698 career attempts still places him ninth on the Lions’ all-time list. Gutowsky earned second-team All-Pro honors in 1934.