Next spring the Detroit Lions will have a premier pick in the National Football League draft. Maybe even the first pick. What will they do with it? Who knows, but an impact pass rusher might be high on their list.
If all the “mock drafts” are to be believed, the Lions may get Chase Young, something they call an “edge rusher.” If so, young Mr. Young will have a chance to follow in the cleat-steps of a few great pass rushers who wore the Honolulu Blue. Including not one, but two amazing defensive lineman who became Lions in 1992 on the same day: draft day.
As the Lions prepared for the 1992 NFL Draft to be held in late April, they were in an unusual position. That January they had played in two playoff games, succumbing in the Conference Championship Game to the Redskins after pummeling the young Cowboys in the opening round of the playoffs. That was the first playoff win for the franchise since the 1950s, and it remains the last time the Lions have won a postseason game.
The 1991 Lions won 12 games and their first division title in a decade. They dispatched the Cowboys 38-6 at the Pontiac Silverdome, a dominant win that had fans dreaming of the Super Bowl. In that victory, the Detroit defense allowed only two field goals. Entering the 1992 draft they seemed like a team on the rise, poised to battle with the elite teams in the NFC. The front office wanted to bolster their defense for the coming season.
Tracy Scroggins was a top ranked defensive player entering the draft. In college at Tulsa, the 6’3, 270-pound Scroggins split time between defensive end and linebacker. He was quick enough to roam the middle of the field, and strong enough to muscle his way through offensive linemen to get into the backfield. He was scary good, and some teams had him projected to be a top ten selection. The Lions were slated to pick 26th, and didn’t seem to have a chance at him.
But a week before the draft, rumors started to emerge that Scroggins was damaged goods. In his senior season he missed a handful of games and he did not perform well at the NFL combine, where college studs ran the 50-yard dash and lifted weights to prove their star potential for scouts and team executives. Scroggins saw his stock plummet as draft day approached.
Robert Porcher was the BMOC, the Big Man on Campus, at South Carolina State University, an historically black institution. Playing in Orangeburg for four years under famed coach Willie Jeffries, Porcher was a ferocious force at defensive end. But South Carolina State was hardly a football powerhouse, and playing for the Bulldogs, Porcher faced a difficult challenge in gaining respect. But unlike Scroggins, Porcher benefited at the Combine, where his physical strength and quickness won over NFL scouts. Suddenly, the Lions and many other teams, had Porcher at the top of their wish list.
When Porcher’s name was still on the board as their pick arrived in the first round, Detroit pounced and selected him at #26. One round later, they nabbed Scroggins.
How good was that draft? The Lions were still reaping the benefits more than a decade later. Not only did the Lions nab an elite pass rusher in the first round with Porcher, they also got another as Scroggins fell to them in the second round. The pair played together in the Honolulu Blue for ten seasons, and for four of those years they were lined up together on the defensive line after Scroggins transitioned from outside linebacker to the D-line.
“Tracy made our pass rush difficult to contain,” teammate Chris Spielman said. “With Robert [Porcher] at his side, teams couldn’t double team them both.
Wearing #91, Porcher was deceptively quick with long arms and strong hands. He established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and a player who offensive coordinators and quarterbacks had to keep an eye out for.
Scroggins made 250 tackles in his ten-year career that ended in 2001. He wore #97 and often played on the outside against linemen that outweighed him by 30 or more pounds. With great physical strength, Scroggins was able to be a factor for the Lions on the defensive side of the football.
Porcher earned trips to the Pro Bowl in 1998, 2000 and 2002. He also finished his career with 24 career games notching more than one sack. From 1996-01, Porcher garnered 68 sacks during that six-year period – which was the second-highest in the NFL during that span. His 673 career tackles are ranked seventh in Detroit Lions’ history, and his 95.5 sacks are a team record. Scroggins ranks third in team history with 60.5 sacks.
The Lions didn’t get back to the Conference Championship Game, but with twin pass rush monsters Porcher and Scroggins, the defense helped Detroit to the playoffs five times in seven seasons.
Enjoy highlights from Porcher’s career: