Tuesday, August 04, 2015

On the passing of Mel Farr

When I was in elementary school, I remember going to Cranbrook and watching the Lions practice during training camp. Among the players I remember seeing were Mel Farr and Charlie Sanders, both of whom died recently, Farr on Monday.
I was hooked on football from that point forward to the point, where even to this day, I look forward to the start of Lions' training camp, which happened to be Monday.
That era of Lions' football was both exhilarating and extraordinarily frustrating. Carl Brettschneider, who was a starting linebacker with Wayne Walker and Joe Schmidt in the early 1960s, was the Lions' player personnel director when they drafted Farr, Lem Barney, Sanders, Earl McCollough and Greg Landry during the late 1960s. He was ahead of the curve envisioning the type of players that were going to succeed in the NFL, but lost a power struggle to general manager Russ Thomas with owner William Clay Ford and went into private business. Brettschneider died last fall. When Brettschneider left the organization, the Lions' drafted
horribly for years.
I knew Carl Brettschneider growing up. His son Brad and I were teammates in everything - football, baseball and basketball. I remember Carl Brettschneider as quiet, but a couple times it just kind of came out how he felt. Ah, he wasn't fond of Williams Clay Ford and Russ Thomas.
Sanders and Barney are in the Hall of Fame. Farr would have been, too. If you watch video of his rookie season in 1967, you see a lot of Gale Sayers in his skill set. He was big and fast, but also very elusive. He had a knee injury his second year, and like with Sayers at approximately the same time, medical science had not advanced to the point where players would have their knees scoped and completely recover. Back then, knee injuries for running backs ruined careers, even ones not considered that serious these days.
Farr played several seasons on a bad knee, and it was more about grit after that. He was a tough player, who used his size effectively. His career was over at 27.
His sons were both tremendous players at Birmingham Brother Rice High School for the legendary Al Fracassa, and followed their father to UCLA. Mike Farr, a wide receiver, was on the last Lions' team to win a playoff game (he caught five passes in the playoff win over Dallas in '91)..
Mel Farr Sr. was a consensus All American, who played on the UCLA team that upset top-ranked Michigan State and Bubba Smith in the 1966 Rose Bowl. Smith and Farr were both from Beaumont, Texas.
To generations of kids, though, he was "Mel Farr, Superstar," the car dealer. Those commercials made Mel Farr an icon in this town during the 1980s, but he was tremendous football player long before they appeared.

My column. Detroit Lions more about substance than hype these days: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20150803/pat-caputo-detroit-lions-more-about-substance-than-hype-these-days

My column. MSU Spartans big part of Big Ten rise on college football landscape: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20150802/pat-caputo-msu-spartans-big-part-of-big-ten-rise-on-college-football-landscape


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