Photo courtesy of the NFL Hall of Fame
For 10 seasons, Harley Sewell, known during his time as a "hillbilly" kid, was a mainstay in the middle of the Lions offensive line that claimed the 1953 and 1957 World Championship. Sewell was know for his extreme hustle and was incredible as a pulling guard, and he was noticed as having the "dirtiest jersey" of any player on the team due to his all-out effort. He had the speed to get our in front to make big blocks, as well as protect quarterbacks like Bobby Layne and Tobin Rote, Earl Morrall, Jim Ninowski and Milt Plum.
The physical left guard was a four-time Pro Bowl selection (1958-60 and 1963), and during his career he led the way for two different running backs (Doak Walker and Nick Pietrosante) to earn Pro Bowl nods. Early in Sewell’s career, he helped the Lions produce some of the franchise’s most productive offenses through his blocking in the run game and protection in the passing game.
In 1954, the Lions accumulated 369.4 total yards per game, third in team history, and 235.4 passing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the team record book. In 1956, the Lions relied on their ground attack chewing up 167.6 rushing yards per game, which still ranks seventh all-time in team history, and they garnered 350.5 total offensive yards per game that still ranks sixth all-time.
In 1960 and 1961, he paved the way for running back Nick Pietrosante to set team records in single-season rushing in back to back years. In 1960, Pietrosante ran for 872 yards and 8 touchdowns and 841 yards and five touchdowns in 1961. Pietrosante’s 8 rushing touchdowns in 1960 tied Dutch Clark’s then-team record for single-season rushing touchdowns.
In Sewell’s final year (1962), the Lions finished 11-3 and were second in the NFC Western division to the Green Bay Packers, the eventual world champions. 11 wins rank second all-time for the most wins in team history. Overall, Sewell played 120 games for the Lions in his 10 seasons. Sewell was a first-round (13th overall) draft pick by the Lions in the 1953 NFL Draft out of Texas, and was one of many native Texans to star for the Lions in the 1950s.