A nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time NFL champion during his illustrious career with the Detroit Lions, what Yale Lary accomplished in life was not defined by the gridiron.

No, Lary sat out two seasons during the height of his career to serve the United States Military as a┬álieutenant in 1954 and 1955. It’s a throwback to earlier times when athletes and those in the public light sacrificed for the betterment of the nation.

While Lary was never deployed to the battlefield, his public service rings true as a representation of a man worthy of being called an all-time great.

Lary passed away Friday at the age of 86,

“Yale Lary was a true American hero,” Pro Football Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker said following the former defensive back’s death, via NFL.com. “He was defined by his heart and character that made him one of the game’s greatest players. Yale led by example and raised the level of all his teammates that resulted in multiple league titles for the Detroit Lions. Those same traits were on display during his service to our country as a member of the United States Army.

Lary, a product of Texas A&M, was a third-round pick of the Lions back in 1952. He would go on to play 11 seasons with the team, earning nine trips to the Pro Bowl and five first-team All Pro honors. He also helped lead the then mighty Lions to three titles, including back-to-back championships in 1952 and 1953.

Lary was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. He remains one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise. Lary is survived by his wife and to children.