NFL legend 'Night Train' Lane dead at 73

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2002

AUSTIN, Texas -- Dick ''Night Train'' Lane hounded wide receivers with his ferocious tackles and quarterbacks with his interceptions.

An undrafted free agent who would become one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history during his 14-year career, Lane died Tuesday night after a heart attack at the assisted living facility where he lived. He was 73.

A member of the NFL's All-Time Team for its first 75 years, Lane was an aggressive tackler whose signature hit -- a clothesline-type move dubbed the ''Night Train Necktie'' -- was banned by the league because it was too dangerous.

''He delivered a few of those on me,'' Hall of Fame wide receiver Tommy McDonald said. ''I told him once, 'Night Train, you need to tackle a little lower -- for my health.'

''When you lined up against him, you were in for a tough day. God should never have given him that kind of speed.''

Lane was a big hit his rookie season when he had 14 interceptions in a 12-game season, a mark that has stood for 50 years despite the schedule increasing to 16 games.

At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Lane was often bigger and faster than wide receivers. His 68 career interceptions remain among the most in league history, and he returned them for 1,207 yards and five touchdowns.

Lane spent four years in the Army after junior college and signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1952. He was traded to the Chicago Cardinals in 1954 before going to the Detroit Lions in 1960. He made the Pro Bowl seven times in a career that ended when he retired after the 1965 season.

Lane was selected the all-time NFL cornerback in 1969 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.

''I played with him and against him, and he was the best I've ever seen,'' former New York Giants kicker Pat Summerall once said.

Once married to jazz singer Dinah Washington, Lane was listening to jazz the night he died, said Terry Yates, the personal care worker who helped Lane for the last two years at the Five-Star Personal Care facility .

''I just helped him to bed. When he laid down he took a big gasp of air. He was having difficulty breathing. It wasn't 20 minutes before he was gone,'' Yates said.

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