Despite the recent struggles for the four major Detroit sports teams, this city has a rich history in sports. Whether it was Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boys, Yzerman in Hockeytown, or one of the greatest football players ever, Barry Sanders, there have been plenty of fan favorites throughout the years. Over the past few years, though, us fans have been desperate for a face to stamp on the billboard for Detroit sports and represent our city.
Winning is the ticket to the fans’ hearts, and obviously we haven’t had much of that these past few years. However, there are a few personalities that fit the mold to be the face of the city. Whether the player/coach is exciting, makes headlines or most importantly, is putting their team in a position to win. With all the teams looking like they are headed in the right direction, I think it’s time to look at a couple players and coaches who fit the mold as the face of Detroit sports. A guy we can look back in 20 years and confidently say was the face of the 2020s for the Motor City.
Here are five players, or coaches, that I believe have a strong case as the poster-boy in Detroit:
Detroit Lion and former Michigan Wolverine, Aidan Hutchinson, quickly became a fan favorite in Detroit after being selected second overall to the Lions in the 2022 NFL Draft. He was one of the guys who was tasked to start the turn-around for the Lions organization, and after an impressive rookie campaign, Hutch has not disappointed. After recording 14 sacks in his final year at Michigan, including a three sack performance against rival Ohio State, Hutch led all rookies with 9.5 sacks in his first year wearing the honolulu blue. Two of those sacks came in the final game of the year in primetime against long-time Lion killer, Aaron Rodgers.
Hutchinson was not only fantastic on the field, but he made headlines off the field, as well. He was one of the main characters in HBO’s Hard Knocks last year. His rookie talent show took the internet by storm, as he performed Michael Jackson’s, Billy Jean. The clip quickly became one of the most infamous moments in Hard Knocks history and showed the lighter side of the hard-nose, gritty culture the Lions are putting together.
Don’t let the singing and dancing fool you though, Hutch has fully embraced the “grit” campaign Dan Campbell has brought to Detroit.
Culture. That is the one word you hear a lot when talking about coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions. Campbell has brought in guys that fit his culture, a culture that he is trying to turn into a winning one. The “grit” campaign has not only fired up the fans, but the players as well. The turn-around the Lions made in the second half of the season was extremely impressive and gave the fans an optimism we haven’t had in a long, long time. There’s something in the air in Detroit when it comes to the Lions, and Campbell is front and center of the Brand New Lions.
Just like Hutchinson, Dan Campbell also became a fan favorite during his time on Hard Knocks. His passion and his numerous funny quotes made plenty of headlines and fired up the fans. “I don’t care if you have one a** cheek and three toes, I will beat you’re a**,” Campbell said during a team meeting on Hard Knocks.
Campbell’s unconventional coaching style and attitude sells tickets and wins games. I believe Campbell has an argument to be the face of Detroit sports.
Youth and potential are the two words that describe the Detroit Pistons. Former first overall pick, Cade Cunningham, has potential through the roof and is slated to take the league by storm when he is healthy. Although Cade has only played 76 games in his two years in the league, he was extremely effective in those games. I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Cunningham is a sure-fire future all-star.
You don’t see many 21-year-old point guards control the pace of the game like Cunningham does. His patience and ability to get to his spot, or find open teammates is very impressive. And he’s only going to get better. Pairing him with Ivey, Duren and the Pistons top pick may be the recipe for playoff basketball in Detroit.
Not only is Cade awesome on the court, the work and charity he’s done for the city of Detroit can’t go without notice. Cade and the Pistons gave away winter coats, gloves, hats, and other winter necessities to over 3,000 Detroit students. He also gave $10,000 to five different schools in Detroit. A young athlete taking care of his city is really great to see. The Pistons got a good one in Cade Cunningham.
At only 26 years old, Red Wings captain and former first round pick, Dylan Larkin, has already been selected to the All-Star game three times in his career. With the Red Wings’ stock on the rise, Larkin is expected to bring Hockeytown back to Detroit.
Larkin just inked an 8-year, $69.6 million extension. This sets him up to be a Red Wing until his 34-year-old season. The extension was well deserved, as Larkin has surpassed the 30-goal threshold two years in a row. Moreover, he has done that one other time in his eight-year NHL career. If Larkin continues to play at a high level we can expect a lot of banners hung up in LCA.
You can’t talk about the face of a city without talking about the quarterback. The 3-time pro bowler, Jared Goff, was fantastic as the Lions’ signal caller last year. Goff finished 6th in passing yards, 5th in touchdown passes and 5th in QBR. During the Lions’ last ten games of the year, Goff totaled 2,534 yards, 17 touchdowns and only 1 interception. He led the team to a 9-8 record, only one game away from a playoff berth.
Goff was a part of the haul the Lions’ received from the Rams for Matthew Stafford. Let’s be honest, we all thought he was going to be the bridge quarterback until we drafted one. However, Goff has played his way to a potential extension in the D. If Goff continues to play well, and brings the Lions to the playoffs, he will be king of the city. There will be no more “oh, but Goff is their quarterback.” No more seeing QB’s mocked to the Lions in the first round. He is here to prove people wrong, and so far, he’s done just that.
Article written by Woodward Sports guest writer, Caleb Czarnik
Photo Credit: © Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
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