When you talk about a player- a throwback- somebody who played for ‘the love of the game first’, one of the first names that should come to mind, is Hall of Fame inductee Lem Barney. One of the greats of his position it just so happened he played in a studded secondary with Dick LeBeau and Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane while with the Detroit Lions. Lem did it all for the Lions from 1967 to 1977, playing corner, return man, and even moonlighting as a punter. A man about town, Lem was good friends with singer Marvin Gaye, and had a great set of pipes, singing backup on one of Gaye’s tunes, and tried his hand in acting as well.
His first season in the NFL was- well- easy. He led the NFL in interceptions with 10, returned 3 of them for TDs and earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors. Over the next 3 following seasons, Lem added 22 more interceptions to his resume. During his storied career he posted 11 career touchdowns on 7 interceptions, a kick off return, a blocked FG, and 2 punt returns, earning all-NFL Honors in 1968, 1969, 1972, and 1975.
It’s surprising that Barney did not attract more attention before he was selected by the Lions in the second round. Playing for Jackson State, Lem racked up 26 interceptions, and earned All-Southwestern Athletic Conference Honors.
His career came to a ignominious halt in 1978 after he was heard on tape during a wiretap investigation. While Barney was not part of the investigation, the press focused squarely on him which may have made both the Lions and other NFL teams skittish to sign him. Lem retired in 1979.
That didn’t stop Barney from accomplishing all the things he wanted to do in life however. He has spent a lot of his time in PR, marketing, and broadcasting. Lem is good to the TTM community, however he requires a $15.00 fee. It was very kind of him to inscribe these cards with his HOF information, although- unlike most collectors it’s appreciated but not necessary.
As far as these cards go, Barney had very few actual action shots because well Topps didn’t go out of their way back then, so in steps my favorite classic set Topps 1970 with that great press pass looking image of Lem. I can’t really complain. The Upper Deck Legends card was a really clean action shot of Lem- and it is a set I like to get as well. The design of the card (on the front) is almost second to none and has been emulated over the years. The ProLine NFL Throwback was a curious choice for the third autograph. I always maligned the set, because it was the NFL- but it typically was NFL players doing things other than NFL, so it was sort of an oddity at the time of collecting in the early 90s. This card of Lem however, with the trench coat and bowler hat is absolutely classy, and it seems to really capture the style and the subliminal statement that the set was trying to project on the canvas in encapsulating the players’ voices.
G/Gs 140/136 TAC N/a SAC N/a FUM 25
INT 56 YDS 1077 AVG 19.2 TD 7 LG 71T
KR 50 YDS 1274 AVG 25.5 TD 1 LG 98T
PR 143 YDS 1312 AVG 9.2 TD 2 LG 74T
P 113 YDS 4006 AVG 35.5 LG 55 BLK 1