The Detroit Lions have been around since 1930, yet have never played in a Super Bowl and hold the NFL’s 25th-best winning percentage. But that doesn’t mean the team hasn’t had some great players throughout its history, including some that fans don’t typically associate with Detroit.
Here are five players you may have forgotten played for the franchise.
5. Larry Foote, 2009
Every championship team needs at least one “glue guy”; a player who may not be spectacular, but who is dependable on the field and a good influence off it. Foote was that player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He may never have been elite, but he was good enough to start at linebacker for one of the league’s best defenses.
A fourth-round pick in 2002, Foote spent the first seven years of his career in Pittsburgh, winning two Super Bowls. In 2009, he signed a one-year deal with the Lions, returning to his home town (Foote was born in Detroit and attended the University of Michigan). In 14 games, he logged 99 total tackles and 11 tackles for loss. He went back to Pittsburgh in 2010 and played four more years there before finishing his career with the Arizona Cardinals in 2014.
He is currently the linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
4. Mike Furrey, 2006-2008
Furrey has been forgotten by many, but he was one of the most interesting players of the 2000s. An undrafted free agent in 2000, he was unable to make the Indianapolis Colts roster and played in the XFL and Arena League before making the St. Louis Rams in 2003. In 2005, Furrey started at free safety, registering 58 tackles and four interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Furrey signed with the Lions in 2006 and played wide receiver, catching 98 passes for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns. He continued to play both sides of the ball until his retirement in 2010, and is now the wide receivers coach for the Chicago Bears.
3. Desmond Howard, 1999-2002
The 1991 Heisman Trophy winner, Howard was selected fourth overall in 1992 by the Washington Redskins, and also spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, and Oakland Raiders. He won a Super Bowl with Green Bay in 1996, and was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXI He won Super Bowl XXXI with Green Bay in 1996, and was also named the game’s MVP after totaling 244 all-purpose yards and a return touchdown.
After two years in Oakland, Howard went back to the Packers in 1999, but was cut after eight games. He was picked up by Detroit, and retired after three-and-a-half seasons with the team, making the only Pro Bowl of his career in 2000, and averaging 25.4 yards per kickoff return in 2001.
2. David Akers, 2013
Undrafted in 1997, Akers saw his first NFL action with the Washington Redskins in 1998. After being waived, he was claimed by the Philadelphia Eagles and spent a season in NFL Europe, playing for the Berlin Thunder. His first season as a full-time starter was 2000, and he spent a total of 12 years with the Eagles, connecting on 294 of 357 field goal attempts. He made five Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team during his time in Philly, and at one point had nailed 19 straight kicks during the postseason, an NFL record.
Akers signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, and made another Pro Bowl and All-Pro team. He set the NFL record for field goals in a season with 44, most points in a season with 166, and field goals attempted in a season with 52, and in 2012 he made a 63-yarder, tying the NFL record, which has since been topped by the Denver Broncos Matt Prater (who has been with the Lions since 2014), although he was helped by the altitude at Mile High Stadium. Akers played his final season with Detroit in 2013, hitting 19 of 24 attempts.
It’s hard for a kicker to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame (there are only two in Canton as of now), and Akers may never make it in, but he’s an all-time great nonetheless.
1. Dwight Freeney, 2017
One of the best pass-rushers of the 2000s, Freeney spent 11 years with the Colts, totaling 107.5 sacks before moving on to the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, but was cut after four games despite logging three sacks in that time.
He was claimed by the Lions and appeared in five games, but did not register a statistic. After the season, he signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a Colt.