Real sad news broke from the Detroit Lions camp yesterday -- former Lions cornerback James Hunter passed away the morning of August 2nd, caused by an "apparent heart attack." Hunter was 56 years old. If Hunter was before your time, the Detroit Lions' press release will fill you in on one of the more popular former Lions players, on and off the field:â†µ
Hunter was the Lions’ first-round draft pick and 10th overall selection in 1976 after an outstanding collegiate career at Grambling State playing for legendary coach Eddie Robinson. He was chosen to 10 All-America teams after his senior season.â†µ
Nicknamed "Hound Dog" for his long-striding running ability, he made an instant impact in the NFL. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound cornerback led the Lions with seven pass interceptions and was runner-up to future Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes as NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year. He got his first start in 1976 at free safety, subbing for another Lions’ great, Dick Jauron who had broken his leg. He shifted to left cornerback in 1977 playing alongside another future Pro Football Hall of Famer, Lem Barney.â†µ
"He was a great athlete and a great guy," said Barney who helped mentor Hunter when he came to the Lions. "I thought I had a lot of energy until I met James. He was always upbeat; always had an encouraging word. He will be sorely missed."â†µ
In his seven seasons with the Lions (1976-82), Hunter led the Lions in three seasons in pass interceptions (1976, ’77 and ’80) and had 27 career interceptions. He played in 86 Lions games before a neck injury sustained late in the 1982 season ended his career.â†µ
I actually had the privilege of watching James Hunter's son, Javin, play at my alma mater, Detroit Country Day School. My dad possessed fond memories of James Hunter's time with the Lions and would often share those with me whenever Javin made high school football headlines, which was seemingly every week. (The apple didn't fall far from the tree -- Javin went on to succeed at Notre Dame and had a brief stint in the NFL). My sincerest condolences go out to the Hunter family and all their friends.