Where are they now: Doug English

Doug English looks back on his 10-season career with the Detroit Lions as having two halves, almost like a football game, with adjustments at halftime.

English's halftime break lasted a full season. After the first five seasons he took off the entire 1980 season and returned in 1981 for the last five years with a dramatic change in his personal emphasis and focus and what football meant to him.

What did not change was his performance on the field.

English was a dominating defensive tackle in his first five seasons (1975-79), and he was just as dominant – if not more so -- as one of the key members of the Silver Rush defensive line when he returned in 1981 to play five more years.

From his rookie season in 1975, when he came to the Lions as a second-round draft pick from Texas through his last season in 1985, English played with such talented players as Herb Orvis, Larry Hand, Bubba Baker, Dave Pureifory, William Gay, John Woodcock, Mike Cofer and Curtis Green.

"I played with a bunch of guys who were so fantastic," English said in a telephone interview from his home in Austin, Texas. "Each one of them was unique. I loved every one of them. We loved each other, and we had each other's back."

They also routinely put quarterbacks on their backs.

The Lions reached a low point in English's career with a 2-14 won-loss record in 1979. The prize for that was getting the first pick in the 1980 draft, which they used to take running back Billy Sims.

Led by Sims' running and a strong defense, the Lions went 9-7 and finished in a tie for first place with the Vikings in the old NFC Central. The Vikings got the division and the playoff berth that went with it via the tiebreaker.

English was home in Texas for that season. He was so disheartened by the dive to 2-14 that he'd lost his desire to play.

"I thought I'd had enough after that 2-14 season," he said. "There just wasn't enough money in it for me to go through that stuff again."

English immersed himself in his business interests, which began to develop as a player and continues to this day.

When he came back in 1981, he understood the platform available to him from being an All Pro defensive lineman.

"When I was there (in his first five years), I played because I always played," he said. "I was motivated as much as I could motivate myself, which wasn't bad.

"When I took that year off and saw the forest for the trees, I changed. And what I learned was that football is not important. I thought it was important, and most people do think it's important.

"It's what you do with that credibility – with the fame from playing and playing well. You have a tremendous bully pulpit. You now have more power than ever."

As an example, English cited an exchange with a young man who asked for his autograph. As had become his custom, before signing English asked how the young man was doing in school and other areas and stressed to him the importance of being responsible.

Soon after, English said he got a letter from the young man's mother saying her son had turned his life around after that conversation.

"That blew me away," English said of the letter and the impact he'd made.

What should not be lost or understated is the impact English continued to make on the field. He was a leader on the Silver Rush front four that terrorized quarterbacks and was strong against the run.

The late Monte Clark, head coach of the Lions for much of English's career, once referred to him as "a cut above" type player for what he did on the field and in his personal life.

English was a college star at Texas, and he continued at that level with the Lions.

The NFL did not recognize sacks as an official stat until 1982. English had 25 "official sacks" from 1982-84, with a career high of 13 in 1983. He made four Pro Bowls, first-team All Pro once and second team three times.

He was inducted into the college football Hall of Fame in 2011.

English remembers how he was viewed physically at different points in his career.

"I came into the league at 6-5, 260," he said. "I was known as a big player, a giant. Eleven years later, I left at 6-6 265. I was known as a small player.

English, 66, was a cerebral player who was popular at home in Texas. He grew up in the Dallas area and played for the Texas Longhorns teams that dominated the old Southwest Conference under legendary head coach Darrell Royal.

The Lions were close to getting over the hump in the first three games after English returned from his one-year hiatus. They lost to the Bucs in a showdown for first place in the final game of the 1981 season and made the playoffs the next two years.

The 1983 team won five of the last seven games to win the division, only to lose to the 49ers on a missed field goal in the final minute of the game.

It was an exciting time for the Lions, with big crowds at the Silverdome for big games.

"That's when the whole Silver Rush thing started for all of us," English said. "I was just a product of great coaches."

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