In today’s edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the 2-time All Pro and six-time Pro Bowl defensive back who just may be, pound-for-pound, the toughest sonofabitch in Detroit Lions’ history.
24. Jim David
Defensive Back. 1952-59 Detroit
Pound-for-pound, Jim “The Hatchet” David is likely the biggest hitter in Lions’ history. The 5-foot-11, 178 pound terror was drafted by the Lions in the 22nd round . . . that’s right . . . the 22nd round, in 1952. The native of South Carolina attended college at Colorado A&M (now Colorado State), where he was a teammate of 1951 Lion rookies Jack Christiansen and Thurman McGraw. Both Christiansen and McGraw recommended that Lion coach Buddy Parker and GM Nick Kerbawy pick up the scrappy David, who had finished second in the nation in pass receptions as a senior in 1951.
It was in the Leos’ defensive backfield where David would build his legend. Coach Parker would team David and fellow rookie Yale Lary, with second-year safety Jack Christiansen and veteran defensive back Bob Smith, to form what would later become known as Chris’s Crew. Named in honor of the dominant Christiansen, Chris’s Crew would soon be the most feared secondary in the entire NFL.
While all four men were skilled ball-hawks, there was no debate as to who the biggest hitter was. Hatchet would solidify his reputation in 1953, when he would break San Francisco 49er quarterback Y.A. Tittle’s jaw and Los Angeles Ram receiver Tom Fears’ back, on consecutive Sundays. David would talk about the incidents years later: “Tittle was an accident, but I kinda went after Fears because he went after our Yale Lary earlier in the game. We policed our own game in those days.”
David would be one of the cornerstones of the Lions’ 1950’s dynasty. He would be selected to six-straight Pro Bowls from 1954-59, as well as be named All-Pro twice in 1954 and 1956. He would retire after the 1959 season with 36 career interceptions, which still places him fifth on the Lions’ all-time list. David would later go into a successful coaching career, spending the 1967-72 seasons as Lion defensive backfield coach, working with head coach and former teammate Joe Schmidt.
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