In today’s 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor a triple-threat fullback who helped the Lions rise to NFL dominance in the early 1950s.
38. Pat Harder
Fullback. 1951-53 Detroit; 1946-50 Chicago Cardinals
When Buddy Parker became Lion coach in December of 1950, he knew that he needed to solidify the team’s fullback position. “What this club needs is a good fullback. Some big guy who can make yardage and block for (Bobby) Layne,” the young coach remarked at the time. Three weeks before the start of the 1951 season, Parker scored his fullback in the form of Harder. Pat was a five year veteran who had starred for the Chicago Cardinals, helping them to consecutive NFL Championship Game appearances in 1947 and ‘48.
Harder was considered by many to be past his prime when Parker made the move to get him. However, Buddy knew better. Parker was an assistant coach on those formidable Cardinal teams, and had no doubt that Harder’s tank was far from empty. Harder proved his old coach was correct when he helped the Lions come within a half-game of the Western Division title in 1951. The Lions finished that year at 7-4-1, which gave Detroit its’ first winning record since 1945.
The next year in the 1952 National Conference Playoff Game Harder scored, a then-NFL postseason-record, 19 points in the Lions’ 31-21 victory over the defending NFL champion Los Angeles Rams. Harder’s points came on touchdown runs of 12-yards, and 4-yards. He also added a 43-yard field goal and four extra points, to set the record, which stood until 1993. The next week Harder booted a 36-yard field goal and two extra points, helping the Lions to a 17-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game.
Harder retired as a player following the 1953 season and later went on to a long and distinguished career as an NFL game official.