Photo courtesy of the NFL Hall of Fame
Ed Flanagan was a steady force at center for the Detroit Lions during his 10-year career with the franchise from 1965-74. Flanagan was originally selected by the Lions in the fifth round (67th overall) of the 1965 NFL Draft out of Purdue. During his decade with the Lions, Flanagan earned four Pro Bowl selections (1970-72 and 1974), the most by a center in team history.
He entered the starting lineup at center as a rookie in 1965 and started there for the remainder of his career in Detroit. In all, he played 139 games for the Lions from 1965-74. Flanagan led the way for several great rushing performances during his time. In 1971, the Lions rushed for 2,376 yards as a team, which ranked second in the league that year and it was the third-highest in team history at the time. The ’71 tally still stands as the sixth-best rushing output in team history.
The 1971 running game was highlighted by Flanagan leading his linemates to open holes for RB Steve Owens, who rushed for the first 1,000-yard season in team history. Owens finished the year, with 1,035 rushing years and 8 touchdowns. Flanagan captained an offensive line that season that protected and blocked for three Pro Bowlers: Owens, QB Greg Landry, and TE Charlie Sanders. In 1967, the Lions rushed for 1,907 yards and finished third in the league in rushing.
Flanagan opened holes for rookie RB Mel Farr who was the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Lions also ranked high in the league in rushing in 1969 (sixth with 1,755 yards) and in 1970 (second in NFL with 2,127 yards). From 1969-71, the Lions were second in the league for rushing yards per game (149.0) during that three-year stretch. Flanagan and the Lions accumulated a 10-4 record in 1970, which earned the team a spot in the playoffs. The 10 wins are tied for third-most by a Lions team in the regular season. Well-respected by his teammates, he was voted a team captain every year from 1969-74.