Saturday, February 15, 2014

Detroit Lions

Here are the 1968 Detroit Lions. This is going to be a short post, because although in the Topps 1968 set, the NFL teams received 9 cards (and the AFL teams received 8 cards), the Lions only got 6 cards. Three other players (QB Milt Plum, RB Tommy Watkins, and WR Pat Studstill) appear in Lions' jerseys with cards labelled as Los Angeles Rams. Obviously, they were traded to the Rams just before the set was finalized. As a result, the Rams have 12 cards in this set.

I had 2 of these 6 cards in 1968 (Ron Kramer, Alex Karras), which I helpfully elaborated on their positions with a pen.

The Lions were coming off their 3rd straight losing season in 1967, and would make it a 4th in 1968. They made some progress at QB though, as one of the players received from the Rams in the above-mentioned trade was Bill Munson, who had shared the starting QB job in LA with Roman Gabriel, and would start for the Lions in '68, '69, '70, '73, and '74.

Karl Sweetan was an 18th-round pick in 1965, and started 8 games for the Lions in each of 1966 and 1967. In 1968 he played for the Saints (starting 3 games), and played for the Rams in 1969 and 1970.

Tom Nowatzke was the Lions' #1 pick in 1965, and played for the Lions from 1965-69. He was the team's starting fullback in 1966. Tom also played for the Colts from 1970-72, mostly as a fullback, although he played some linebacker in 1971.

Jim Gibbons played for 11 years (1958-68), all with the Lions. He was Detroit's starting tight end for his first 7 seasons. In 1965, he and the newly-acquired Ron Kramer each started 7 games. Gibbons became the backup TE for his last 3 seasons. He was a 3-time Pro Bowler.

Ron Kramer was the Packers' #1 pick in the 1957 draft. He played 3 seasons as a backup (missing the '58 season), then became the Pack's starting tight end from 1961 through 1964. He also made the Pro Bowl in 1962. Traded to the Lions after 1964, Ron split the starting TE job with Jim Gibbons in 1965, then was the regular TE in his final 2 seasons (1966-67).

Alex Karras was the Lions' #1 pick in 1958, and was the team's starting left defensive tackle for his entire career (1958-70), except for the 1963 season, when he and Packers' halfback Paul Hornung were suspended for gambling. Karras never missed a game, except for his 1963 suspension, and 1 game in his final season. He was a Pro Bowl selection from 1960-62 and in 1965.

After his playing career, he appeared in movies and TV, including "Blazing Saddles" and the sitcom "Webster". Karras passed away in October 2012 at age 77.

Wayne Walker was drafted by the Lions in 1958, and played his entire 15-year career (1958-72) with the Lions. He was the team's starting right linebacker in all but his first 2 seasons, and was also the kicker from 1962-68. Walker made the Pro Bowl from 1963-65.

Also check out the 1967 Lions.


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