Tom Watkins
No. 22, 23
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born:(1937-10-23)October 23, 1937
West Memphis, Arkansas, U.S.
Died:October 29, 2011(2011-10-29) (aged 74)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:195 lb (88 kg)
Career information
College:Iowa State
NFL draft:1960 / Round: 15 / Pick: 177
AFL draft:1961 / Round: 8 / Pick: 57
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:1,791
Player stats at · PFR

Tom Watkins (October 23, 1937 – October 29, 2011) was an American football running back in the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 15th round of the 1960 NFL Draft. He played college football at Iowa State.[1]

Watkins also played for the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers. He was inducted into Iowa State's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.[2]

According to George Plimpton's best-selling book "Paper Lion" Watkins, graduated from Iowa State University in 1961, was one of the best running backs in Cyclone history. A member of the famed 1959 "Dirty Thirty" team, Watkins ranked second in the nation in rushing that season and earned All-America honors the following year in 1960. He played seven seasons in the NFL, leading the league in punt return yardage as a Lion in 1963 and 1964. He was inducted into ISU's Athletics Hall of Fame in 2002.

Tom lived the last 30+ years of his life living in Detroit, Michigan where he was a philanthropist and mentor for many youth in the Metro Detroit area.

Professional career

Tom Watkins was drafted by the Cleveland Browns of the NFL in 1959. Watkins was traded to the Detroit Lions three years later. With the Lions, Watkins made his impact as a return specialist.[3] In a game against the 49ers in 1963, Watkins returned a punt for 90 yards, setting a team record that would remain unbroken until Desmond Howard returned one for 95 yards in a 2000 game against the New Orleans Saints.

Watkins played in just one game for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968, but did not record a stat.

After his playing career was over, Watkins lived in Detroit, becoming the head coach of Detroit Chadsey High School's football team. He retired after 35 years as head coach in 2006.[4]


  1. ^ Former Lions star Tommy Watkins dies
  2. ^ Tom Watkins - Hall of Fame Class of 2002 Archived 2009-02-28 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Former Lion Tommy Watkins Dies at 74". Archived from the original on 2011-11-03.
  4. ^ "Former Lion Tommy Watkins Dies at 74". Archived from the original on 2011-11-03.