The Detroit Lions family was stunned and saddened today with the news that former cornerback James “Hound Dog” Hunter died of an apparent heart attack. Hunter was 56.I remember marveling at how a man so big – 6-2 and 195 pounds – could be so fast, quick and smooth.
For the last two decades the Lions have been looking for a cornerback just like him – and they’re still looking. In 1976, Hunter was a runner-up to Mike Haynes for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
It was always a joy to talk to Hunter because he was a man of great humor and a warm smile. For years, he would come back and attend Lions practices to keep up with his old team (even all those years later, it was my contention that he was still the best cornerback on the field).
Interestingly, the only time I saw him the last couple of years was at the airport when we always seemed to end up on the same flight to the Super Bowl. Hunter, who traveled to the game as part of his work for Anheuser-Busch, was always engaging, smart and funny. He was one of the guys you always looked forward to seeing.
“He was a great athlete and a great guy,” said Lem Barney, who played alongside Hunter. “I thought I had a lot of energy until I met James. He was always upbeat, always had an encouraging word. He will be sorely missed.”
“James Hunter shall always be remembered as a consummate pro – on and off the field,” said Lions president Tom Lewand. “He made a significant impact on the field, in the community, as a businessman, as a business partner with the Lions in recent years and as a husband and father. On behalf of the William Clay Ford family and the entire Lions’ organization, I extend deepest
sympathies to James’ wife Emmalene, son Javin and their family.”
Funeral arrangements for James Hunter are incomplete and will be announced later.