Paul Naumoff was undersized as a 215-pound linebacker when the Detroit Lions drafted him in the third round in 1967 and not as well recognized as Mel Farr and Lem Barney, who were drafted ahead of him in the first and second rounds.
It didn't take long for Naumoff to prove that he was big enough to handle the rigors of the NFL, and he made a name for himself and earned the respect of teammates and coaches in a 12-year career, all with the Lions.
Naumoff passed away last week at his home in the Knoxville suburb of Lenior City, Tenn. He was 73.
He was a steady, productive player for the Lions, playing outside linebacker his entire career. He fit in quickly in a defense that included veteran linebackers Mike Lucci, Wayne Walker and Ernie Clark.
Naumoff was a high school star in Ohio and an All-American at Tennessee, where he was converted from defensive end to linebacker to take advantage of his athleticism.
With the Lions, Naumoff played all 14 games in his first 10 seasons and missed only two games in his last two seasons combined. In all, he played 168 of a possible 170 regular-season games with 155 starts. For his career he had six interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.
He made the Pro Bowl on the 1970 team that won its last five games to finish with a 10-4 won-loss record and make the playoffs as a wild card. He was credited with a sack – an unofficial stat at the time – in the playoff loss to the Cowboys.
Naumoff is survived by his wife of 52 years, Melva, one son and two daughters.