Lem Barney in 2015
|Born:||September 8, 1945|
|Height:||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Weight:||188 lb (85 kg)|
|High school:||Gulfport (MS) 33rd Avenue|
|NFL Draft:||1967 / Round: 2 / Pick: 34|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Lemuel Joseph Barney (born September 8, 1945) is a former American football player. A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, he played college football at Jackson State from 1964 to 1966. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL) and played for the Lions as a cornerback, return specialist, and punter from 1967 to 1977. He was selected as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1967, played in seven Pro Bowls, and was selected as a first-team All-NFL player in 1968 and 1969. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. He has also been inducted into the Detroit Lions Hall of Fame, the Jackson State Sports Hall of Fame, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Barney attended Jackson State University, a historically black university in Jackson, Mississippi. His son Lem Barney the 3rd and Grandson Lem Barney the 4th also followed in his footsteps and graduated from Jackson State. He played college football for the Jackson State Tigers football team from 1964 to 1966 under head coach Rod Paige. He had 26 career interceptions at Jackson State, including nine in 1965 and 11 in 1966. He also had punt averages of 41.7 and 42.5 in those two seasons. Barney was an All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection three straight years. He was also selected as an All-American by Ebony magazine and the Pittsburgh Courier.
Barney was selected by the Detroit Lions in the second round, 34th overall pick, of the 1967 NFL Draft. As a rookie in 1967, Barney appeared in all 14 games as a starting cornerback and led the NFL with 10 interceptions, 232 interception return yards and three interceptions returned for touchdowns. After an injury to Pat Studstill, Barney also took over as the Lions' punter, punting 47 times for an average of 37.4 yards in 1967. On September 17, 1967, in the first quarter of his first NFL game, Barney intercepted the first pass thrown in his direction by Bart Starr and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. In the final game of his rookie season, Barney intercepted three passes within ten minutes and returned one 71 yards for a touchdown. At the end of the 1967 season, he was selected by the Associated Press as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Barney went on to be selected to seven Pro Bowls and was selected as a first-team All-NFL player in 1968 and 1969. During his 11 years in the NFL, Barney had 56 interceptions, 1,011 interception return yards, and seven interceptions returned for touchdowns. He also returned 143 punts for 1,312 yards and three touchdowns as well as 50 kickoff returns for 1,274 yards, including a 98-yard return for touchdown.
In March 1978, as part of a wiretap investigation into international drug smuggling, Barney's voice was heard allegedly discussing cocaine and amphetamines. Although investigators stated that Barney was not the focus of the investigation, the controversy received extensive press attention through the spring of 1978, as Barney was called to testify before a New York grand jury.
In August 1978, the Lions placed Barney on the injured waiver list. Barney's efforts to sign with another team were unsuccessful, and he did not play during the 1978 season. He was officially released by the Lions in February 1979.
After retiring as a player, Barney received numerous honors, including the following:
Barney is an accomplished singer who began singing with choirs in his youth and college. He befriended Motown recording artist Marvin Gaye, when Gaye unsuccessfully tried out for the Lions in 1970. Barney and teammate Mel Farr sang background vocals on Gaye's classic 1971 song "What's Going On". In 2015, Barney was invited to sing the national anthem at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Barney and his wife, Martha, had a daughter, LaTrece, and a son, Lem III. After retiring from the NFL, Barney worked for many years, starting in 1979, in public affairs for Michigan Consolidated Gas Company. He also worked in the 1980s as a football broadcaster on BET and on pre-season games for the Detroit Lions.
In March 1993, after his car crashed into a guardrail on a Detroit freeway, Barney was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and possession of cocaine and marijuana. He was found not guilty of the drug charges following a jury trial in 1994.
In 2006, Barney published an autobiography titled, "The Supernatural: Lem Barney".
He held a public relations post at the Detroit Medical Center starting in 2006. After being fired from that position, he filed an age discrimination lawsuit in 2013. Also in 2013, Barney publicly declared that, in light of revelations about brain injuries resulting from football, he would not play football if he had the chance to live his life over again and predicted that the game of football would be gone in another 20 years.