DETROIT (AP) — Mel Farr, a former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year who rushed for more than 3,000 yards in seven pro seasons with the Detroit Lions, has died. He was 70.
Farr, a running back, played college football at UCLA and finished seventh in the voting for the 1966 Heisman Trophy. He was drafted in 1967 in the first round by the Lions and ran for 860 yards in 13 games as a rookie. Farr spent his whole NFL career with Detroit, from 1967-73.
“The entire Lions family is saddened by the passing of Mel Farr,” Lions President Tom Lewand said in a statement Tuesday. “As both a player and a businessman, Mel was blessed with many talents and a personality to match. His energetic presence in Detroit, both on the field during his playing career and off the field for decades after, was unique and unmistakable.
“Mel truly lived a life of distinction and will be missed.”
One of Farr’s sons told the team that Farr died Monday, a Lions spokesman said.
Farr led Detroit in rushing as a rookie and tallied 197 yards in a game against Minnesota. He also caught 39 passes for 317 yards. He scored six touchdowns that season.
In 1970, Farr rushed for 717 yards, helping the Lions go 10-4 in the regular season and reach the playoffs for the first time since 1957.
He was named to play in the 1968 and 1971 NFL Pro Bowls.
Farr finished his pro career with 3,072 yards on 739 carries and would go on to a second career selling cars in the Detroit area.
At one point, Farr owned about a dozen dealerships in several states and appeared in TV commercials as the cape-wearing Mel Farr Superstar.
But the spiraling cost of thousands of loans to bad-credit customers, lawsuits and overexpansion helped lead to the end of his business empire.
In early 2000, most of his dealerships were losing money and Farr had defaulted on $50 million in loans from Ford Motor Co.’s credit arm.
Farr’s brother, Miller, and two sons, Mel Jr. and Mike, also played in the NFL. Mike Farr spent time with the Lions.
Mel Farr remained close to football and the Lions over the years, and was a founding member of the Detroit Lions Alumni Association and active participant in Detroit Lions community and philanthropic initiatives, the team said.
Farr, along with then-teammate Lem Barney, sang backup in 1971 on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” The song went gold. Farr and Barney were playing golf with the Motown legend when Gaye came up with the tune.
In addition to his sons, Farr is survived by his wife, Jasmine, and two daughters, Monet and Milan.