Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Layne, Bobby

Detroit Lions quarterback Robert “Bobby” Layne was born on December 19, 1926 in Santa Anna, Texas. Despite a somewhat turbulent upbringing that included the death of his father when Layne was six years old, he went on to find success at the University of Texas. Although he was a starting pitcher for the baseball team, and after graduation had offers from three major league teams, his true calling was football. As quarterback Layne was selected to four straight all-conference teams and was one of the first inductees into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame.

Drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the third overall pick in 1948, but immediately traded to the Chicago Bears, he found his way to the Detroit Lions in 1950, after a season with the New York Bulldogs. Layne worked hard and helped lead the Lions to NFL championships in 1952 and 1953 and a division title in 1954. The Lions also won the championship in 1957 but Layne broke his leg toward the end of the season and could not play. Layne was hugely popular among Detroit fans, characterized as “equal parts George Patton and party animal.” He was one of the last NFL players to play without a face mask.

In 1958, the Lions traded Layne to Pittsburgh and apocryphally, he is said to have responded by cursing the team, saying that the Detroit Lions “would not win for 50 years.” The Lions have not won a championship since Layne issued his decree.

In Layne’s five seasons with the Steelers, he played in two more Pro Bowls, adding to his four with the Lions. He retired in 1962, having failed to lead the Steelers to a championship. At that time he had the NFL record for passing attempts (3,700), completions (1,814) and touchdowns (196). Layne continued his football career as quarterback coach to the Steelers and St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) and scout for the Dallas Cowboys until 1967. That same year he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Layne was in Pontiac, Michigan for a Hall of Fame ceremony for his long-time friend and former teammate, Doak Walker, when intestinal bleeding sent him to the hospital. He returned home to Lubbock, Texas where he died of a heart attack on December 1, 1986, at the age of 59.



Bobby Layne, 1957 - 2005.004.141

Lion's jacket likely worn by Bobby Layne, 1952 - 2003.005.010

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