In this edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the often overlooked triple-threat star, who played second banana to Hall of Famer Dutch Clark, on the Portsmouth Spartans and Detroit Lions championship teams of the 1930s.
22. Glenn Presnell
Single-Wing Tailback (Quarterback), Defensive Back, Wingback, Fullback. 1931-33 Portsmouth; 1934-36 Detroit
One of the underrated stars of the NFL’s early years, Presnell spent much of his career in the shadow of teammate and future Hall of Famer, Dutch Clark. However Presnell, along with Dutch, co-piloted Lion coach Potsy Clark’s famed “Infantry Attack” offense of the 1930’s. During those years, it was no secret to Lion opponents that Detroit liked to run. With Presnell and Clark calling signals, Detroit’s single-wing offense pounded out the yardage with devastating results for the opposition. Their 1934 squad still holds the franchise’s single-game rushing mark with 426 yards, set against the Pittsburgh Pirates (later the Steelers) on November 11, 1934. Two years later, their 1936 team set a then-NFL single-season team record of 2,885 yards rushing. It is important to note that the mark was set in the days of twelve-game regular seasons. To this day it remains the Lion record, and it stood as the NFL mark for 36 years until it was broken by the 1972 Miami Dolphins, playing in an expanded 14 game slate.
The Lions’ tailback duo of Presnell and Clark began their exploits in 1931 during the franchise’s Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartan days. As rookies in ‘31, they led the Spartans to a second-place finish behind the Green Bay Packers. They would lead the Spartans to another top-three finish in 1932. Then in 1933, with Dutch Clark on a self-imposed one-year retirement, Presnell directed the Spartans to a second-place finish behind the Bears. Glenn would have a career year in his Portsmouth swan song, tying for the league lead in scoring (64 points), finished 2nd in passing yards (774), and 4th in rushing yards (522). The Presnell / Clark duo would reunite in Detroit in 1934, guiding the Lions to another runner-up finish behind the Bears. Finally in 1935, they would lead the Lions to their first NFL Championship, climaxing with a 26-7 title game win over the New York Giants.
Presnell also served as the Lions’ regular place-kicker. In 1934, he booted an NFL record 54-yard field goal in a 3-0 victory against the Packers. It remained an NFL record until 1953, and stood as the Lions’ team standard until Jason Hansen’s 56-yard effort in 1995. In addition to his aforementioned tie for the league scoring title in 1933, Glenn would finish third with 63 points in 1934, behind the Bears’ Jack Manders (76), and his old backfield-mate Clark (73). Presnell received NFL All-Pro honors in 1931 and 1933.
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