Will OU fans become Detroit Lions fans? They have three reasons to root for an NFL team on the rise.
The Lions selected three Sooners — wide receiver Ryan Broyles, defensive end/linebacker Ronnell Lewis and linebacker Travis Lewis.
First, though, a little history.
The Lions ended a 12-year playoff drought last season. And lost.
Detroit has recorded one playoff win the past 55 years. Think the Cubs are in a slump? The Lions own one playoff win since 1957.
Even more telling: the Lions are one of four teams to never play in the Super Bowl, the only team from the 1970 NFL-AFL merger that's never played the final Sunday.
Back to 2012, though. Three Sooners join the organization during a time of enhanced optimism in the Motor City.
Detroit has the league's best receiver (Calvin Johnson) and star-in-the-making quarterback (Matthew Stafford). The defense has issues, but the Lions are an emerging playoff threat.
The Lions have a coach OU fans would love. Jim Schwartz speaks his mind. A good example was Broyles' introductory press conference Saturday in Detroit. Before answering questions, Schwartz said: “As you can see, Ryan doesn't have a knee brace on,” he deadpanned to update reporters on Broyles' knee that required surgery to repair a torn ACL.
The Lions have a stable of quality wideouts, but Schwartz said Broyles, a second-round pick, will play. The NCAA's all-time leading receiver is confident his knee will be close to 100 percent for training camp in late July.
“I'm on pace,” Broyles said. “I feel good, got my range of motion back.”
If the knee heals completely, Detroit's receiving corps will be a nightmare for NFC North defenses.
On third down Broyles, might be the fourth or fifth option behind Johnson, veteran Nate Burleson, productive second-year wideout Titus Young and former Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
Schwartz stressed Broyles will be in the mix.
“There's all kinds of profiles and things you look for in players,” Schwartz said. “But the No. 1 thing you look for is what he does on tape and the production he has in college.”
That's not the case for Travis Lewis. He was the first player in school history to lead the Sooners in tackles all four seasons. And he dropped to the seventh round.
Schwartz said Lewis playing with a broken toe his senior season explains how a player that averaged 121 tackles his first three seasons recorded a career low 84 his senior year.
“It affected him,” Schwartz said. “But if you look back, he has a history of production at a Big 12 school. He was Big 12 Freshman of the Year. He's been on All-Big 12 teams a bunch of times. He didn't run real well, but if you watch him on the field, he plays fast.”
Ronnell Lewis has the opposite issue. He has speed and can be a feisty pass rusher. If he's moved to linebacker, Lewis' role could be a third down, pass-rush specialist and special teams stalwart.
Best known as “The Hammer,” Ronnell Lewis lived up to his big-hit personality when asked in a conference call with Detroit reporters what he hopes to accomplish in the NFL.
“Inflict pain,” Ronnell Lewis said.
But how much of an impact can he make at the next level?
Schwartz was asked about Lewis ending his career early because of academic issues, even four months after being eligible was a hot-button topic during two-a-days.
“There's been plenty of players that have struggled in school that were smart football players,” Schwartz said. “That's the main thing. How do they play on tape? Do they require extra attention?
“This is the National Football League. We've got All-Pro. We have Pro Bowl. But we don't have Academic All-NFC North or All-Academic NFL. I think he plays smart on the field.”
The Lions actually could become Oklahoma's team. In addition to Pettigrew, they have three other Oklahoma State players on the roster.
Detroit signed free agent Jacob Lacey, a former undrafted cornerback who earned an NFL career in Indianapolis. Former OSU defensive end Ugo Chinasa and offensive lineman Corey Hillard also are on the roster.
Seven in-state products are part of an organization that's dreaming big.
OU's trio (Broyles and Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis) was disappointed they never captured the NCAA championship. Now they have an opportunity to help the Lions end more than half a century of championship frustration.