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Norcross product Backus announces retirement from NFL

In this Nov. 7, 2010, file photo, Detroit Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus runs out to the field before the start an NFL football game against the New York Jets at Ford Field in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

In this Nov. 7, 2010, file photo, Detroit Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus runs out to the field before the start an NFL football game against the New York Jets at Ford Field in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Detroit Lions offensive tackle and Norcross grad Jeff Backus, the all-time franchise record with 187 consecutive starts, announced his retirement Thursday after 12 seasons.

Backus, 35, has started as the Lions' left tackle since being selected in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan.

“Today, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for me to hang up my cleats and retire,” Backus said in a statement released by the team. “It’s a bittersweet moment, but I’m content knowing I gave everything I had, played as hard as I could and tried my best to live up to the standards I believe in.”

His consecutive-start streak ended last season when he was inactive on Thanksgiving Day against the Houston Texans. He set the franchise record on Dec. 4, 2011, when he passed Hall of Fame cornerback Dick LeBeau with his 172nd.

Since the 1970 merger, Backus is also the first offensive lineman to begin his career and start his first 160 career games.

“We’ve been talking with him for a while since the season ended, and it was I think a tough decision for Jeff but one that he’s at peace with,” Lions president Tom Lewand told the Detroit Free Press. “Jeff was a great Lion for a dozen years and had a tremendous career.

“We have nothing but the greatest amount of respect for him and all he’s done for this organization as a player and as a person. He’s one of the truly great individuals to have walked through the doors of this franchise and we look forward to him continuing to walk through those doors even in retirement.”

Backus also had an impressive streak at Michigan, starting 49 straight games from 1997-2000. He helped the Wolverines to the national championship as a redshirt freshman.

He stayed in Michigan for a professional career that included plenty of loses and just one playoff berth, but he left his mark on the Lions and Detroit.

“I don’t know that there’s anybody whose work ethic better embodied this city and this state than Jeff Backus,” Lewand told the Free Press. “He showed up to work every day and when he committed to do something he did it with every ounce of talent and energy that he had, and you never had to worry about where he was coming from. It was all about the team, all about the contribution he could have and never lost sight of the bigger-picture goal, which was to win football games and contribute in any way he could to do that. There really is no better embodiment of that then Jeff.”