Backus didn’t enter the NFL in 2001 with the athleticism of recent top-flight left tackles. He wasn’t a workout warrior that wowed coaches and scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine with his agility or strength.
Backus played 12 NFL seasons - amounting to a streak of consecutive starts that reached 186 games at one point - because he was tough, durable and fundamentally sound.
The Detroit Lions announced Backus’ retirement Thursday.
"Today, I’ve come to the conclusion that it's time for me to hang up my cleats and retire. It’s a bittersweet moment, but I'm content knowing I gave everything I had, played as hard as I could and tried my best to live up to the standards I believe in," Backus wrote in a statement.
"I want to thank the Ford Family and the Detroit Lions for allowing me the privilege to represent the city of Detroit and play in the National Football League for the last 12 years. I also want to thank all of my coaches and teammates for all their support over the years.
"To the fans of Detroit, I thank you for the support and loyalty you have shown the Lions and myself. You deserve a winner.
"Looking forward, I wish the entire Detroit Lions organization and all Lions’ fans the best. I will always be a Lion at heart."
Backus was never considered an elite NFL talent at left tackle – he never made a Pro Bowl in his 12 NFL seasons. But if there's one word to describe Backus it's reliable.
He started every game at left tackle from the time the Lions drafted him in the first round in 2001 up until a hamstring injury kept him out last’s year’s Thanksgiving Day game vs. Houston - a streak of 186 consecutive starts.
He's been a fixture on football Sunday and Saturday in the state of Michigan. He started 49 consecutive games at Michigan beginning his redshirt freshman season in 1997, which means before last year’s missed start, Backus started a game his team played dating back 236 games.
"It was a tough decision for Jeff but one that he’s at peace with," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "On behalf of the entire organization, the Ford family and myself personally, Jeff was a great Lions for a dozen years and had a tremendous career.
"To say that you played for one team for 12 years and missed one game in that 12-year period - set a record for consecutive games started - and was a fixture at left tackle for more than a decade. We have nothing but the greatest amount of respect for him and all he’s done for this organization as a player and a person. He’ll be a Lion for life."