Remembering former Lion star, businessman Mel Farr

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A superstar salesman off the field and a star running back for the Detroit Lions.

Tonight family and friends are remembering Mel Farr, the 70-year old former Detroit Lion who died Monday.

The 1967 NFL Rookie of the Year went on to become a pioneer in business. 

While FOX 2 was talking with Lions great Lem Barney about Mel Farr's passing, his phone rang. It was former teammate Dick LeBeau reaching out. Lem told him what he knew.

"After dinner the wife said he didn't feel that good," Barney said speaking into the phone. "They took him over to the hospital and he made his transition there. It was just one of those things. 

"Two back to back. We lose Charlie (Sanders) a few weeks ago and now Mel."

A rare glimpse inside the NFL brotherhood.

"He was just a special person and a great, great player," LeBeau said. "No doubt about that."

At his home in suburban Detroit, Lem remembered Mel as a teammate, businessman, family man -- even fellow backup singer on Marvin Gaye's hit "What's Goin' On."

Marvin had befriended us and we started going down to the studio, listening to him," Barney said. "We would be singing along with him as we would be driving down to the studio. And all of a sudden he said, 'Why don't you guys come over to the studio, I want you to do this.' 

"So he said, 'Lem you take this part and Mel you take this part.' When the song first comes on, it's like 'Say brother, what's happening?' 'Man like solid, right on.' So we backed him up on 'What's Going On' and ended up getting a gold record. "

Mel and Lem were mirror draft picks, going one-two and both winning rookie of the year on offense and defense, respectively in 1967.

The public of course would also come to know Mel Farr as the caped car crusader selling Fords.

"'If I can't beat your deal, you can't fly either,'" Barney said, quoting the commercial's tag. "That was one of his commercials. But he took it very serious just like he did football and the rest of life.

"He was a great brother with a great heart and he's going to be sorely missed."

Funeral arrangements, and the exact cause of his passing, are pending.