James Hunter, a Lions cornerback from 1976-82, died this morning at the age of 56. The cause of death is an "apparent heart attack," according to the Lions' release on this news. Here is more on Hunter from the press release.
Nicknamed "Hound Dog" for his long-striding running ability, he made an instant impact in the NFL. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound cornerback led the Lions with seven pass interceptions and was runner-up to future Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes as NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year. He got his first start in 1976 at free safety, subbing for another Lions’ great, Dick Jauron who had broken his leg. He shifted to left cornerback in 1977 playing alongside another future Pro Football Hall of Famer, Lem Barney.
"He was a great athlete and a great guy," said Barney who helped mentor Hunter when he came to the Lions. "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."
In his seven seasons with the Lions (1976-82), Hunter led the Lions in three seasons in pass interceptions (1976, ’77 and ’80) and had 27 career interceptions. He played in 86 Lions games before a neck injury sustained late in the 1982 season ended his career.
"James Hunter shall always be remembered as a consummate pro – on and off the field," praised 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."
My thoughts go out to Hunter's friends and family.