Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Yale Lary, who won three NFL championships with the Detroit Lions, has died Friday at age 86 at his home in Fort Worth, Texas.
Lary spent 11 seasons with the Lions in a career that was broken up by his service in the U.S. Army -- he played from 1952-53, then returned to the Lions from 1956-64. He also served as a punter and kickoff returner.
"As his Hall of Fame career indicates, Yale truly was one of our all-time great players and one of the greatest of his generation," Lions owner Martha Ford said in a statement. "As good as he was on the field, he also was a genuinely wonderful person, one whose company and friendship Mr. Ford and I greatly cherished."
Lary had 50 interceptions and averaged 44.3 yards per punt. He played in nine Pro Bowls, was named All-NFL five times, and was selected for the Hall of Fame in 1979.
"Yale Lary lived a life of character that will serve as great inspiration to generations of fans. His legacy will forever be celebrated at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio," Pro Football Hall of Fame CEO David Baker said in a statement.
Baker went on to call Lary a "true American hero."
"He was defined by his heart and character that made him one of the game's greatest players," Baker said. "Yale led by example and raised the level of all his teammates that resulted in multiple league titles for the Detroit Lions. Those same traits were on display during his service to our country as a member of the United States Army."