The story of perhaps the greatest defensive back in NFL history goes something like this: In 1952, a twenty four year old Dick Lane1 showed up undrafted at the training camp of the Los Angeles Rams. He was sick of working in the aircraft industry and wanted a new job.
Initially projected as a tight end, the coaches moved him to defensive back because they feared he would have trouble holding onto the ball. All he did in his rookie season was set the all-time NFL record with fourteen interceptions in twelve games.
But beyond his otherworldly stats, it was his ferocious approach to the game and hitting style that differentiated Night Train from the rest.2 He didn’t go after his opponents with an intent to injure, but he would reach his goal of stopping you from gaining an extra inch by any means necessary. In fact, one of his famous moves was the “Night Train Necktie”, a neck high tackle that the league eventually stepped in and banned.
It’s a shame that in the protective environment of today’s league, we will probably never see a player as unique as Dick “Night Train” Lane, whom Vince Lombardi said was the best cornerback he’d ever seen.
1 The Night Train nickname was given to him by teammate Tom Fears, based on the popular record of the same name by Buddy Morrow.
2 For video evidence of what Night Train did on the field, watch this NFL Network profile narrated by Jerry Glanville.