detroit lions lost there player after he got….

When legendary offensive line coach Jerry Wampfler was in the hospital in mid-January, he wore an old Detroit Lions sweatshirt from his time with the team three decades ago.

Wampfler endowed a Grit Award and Scholarship at his old high school in New Philadelphia, Ohio, given to a lineman who works hard and shows good character every year. In his final days, with a Lions team that’s made grit a core part of its philosophy in the midst of a playoff run, Wampfler still held those traits dear.

He died Jan. 21 after a short hospital stay at the age of 91.

Lions offensive line coach Jerry Wampfler works Monday with (from left) Bill Fralic, Dave Lutz and Dave Richards on July 30, 1993.

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“The stipulation for the award of who gets it, it has to go to a lineman, offense or defensive lineman,” Jerry’s son, Tad, told the Free Press on Wednesday. “They don’t even have to be a starter. They don’t have to be good in school, they have to be the kids that fought and always tried hard and came to practice and had good character. And that’s what the Grit Award is, and that’s who Dad is, and I tell you that because that’s the players that he most respected.”

Wampfler was raised on a farm during the Great Depression, got talked into playing football by his seventh-grade teacher and went on to cross paths with some of the greatest coaches and players the game has ever seen.

He was recruited to Miami (Ohio) by Woody Hayes, coached at the school under Bo Schembechler, won a share of a national championship as an assistant at Notre Dame under Ara Parseghian, and spent three seasons as Colorado State head coach before embarking on a two-decades-long NFL career.

Wampfler won a Super Bowl as offensive line coach for the Philadelphia Eagles under Dick Vermeil, and finished his career as an assistant with the Lions in 1989-93.

The Lions, with Barry Sanders in the backfield and Lomas Brown and Kevin Glover on the offensive line, finished in the top 11 in the NFL in rushing in four of Wampfler’s five seasons with the team. Before this season, they won their last division title (in 1993) and playoff game (in 1991) during Wampfler’s tenure as offensive line coach.

Wampfler also spent time with the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills as an assistant. He retired after the Lions’ wild-card playoff loss in the 1993 season.

“It was time for a rebuild,” Tad Wampfler said. “He didn’t have it in him to be part of, but he loved his time in Detroit. He loved that team that, it’s fun when you step into a situation and it’s losing and you get maybe not to the Super Bowl but the NFC championship, with quality people. That’s the big thing for him is just, yeah, the Barry Sanders of the world. And Barry, yeah, an awesome talent, but he loved Barry because who Barry was as a person, and Kevin and Lomas and those guys, and (Eric) Andolsek and (Mike) Utley. Just who everybody is as a person is really what it’s about for him.”

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