Mel Farr, a football and business standout in Detroit since 1967, passed away at his home at the age of 70. Few could have expected that he would make such an impact on the city when he was the 7th overall pick out of UCLA almost 50 years ago. However, his legacy will remain in the city for years to come.
His story started in Beaumont, Texas, where he was a multiple sport standout at Hebert High School. Football ended up being his best sport, and he was able to land a scholarship at UCLA to become a halfback for the Bruins. After starting for two seasons, Detroit was convinced he was worthy of a first round pick in 1967.
The Lions utilized him in their offense right away, as he earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He was also named to one of his two Pro Bowls that season, showing his playmaking at the position. If he was a rookie going into fantasy football 2015, he would be high on the draft charts. Farr would spend his entire NFL career with Detroit, finishing up the 1973 season with a career total of 3072 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns.
Athletes can form bonds with their adopted cities in pro sports, and that is exactly what happened with Farr. He would have been well-known in the city of Detroit even if he didn’t get into business after his career, but he was not done making an impact. He first became interested in the automobile industry thanks to his connections with the Ford family while playing for the Lions. He worked for Ford during the offseason, and that eventually led to him opening up his own dealership in 1975.
Few could have imagined that Farr would turn into a bigger star off of the gridiron, but that is exactly what happened as Mel Farr Auto Group became one of the largest dealerships in the United States by the 1990s. Farr would appear in commercials played around the Detroit area, so even kids who never saw him play one down knew who he was.
If Farr was just a football player or just a businessman, he would have still lived a substantial life. The fact that he was able to achieve so much success in both makes him one who won’t soon be forgotten.