Detroit Lions fans should take a moment during Super Bowl LVII to thank Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay.
“It’s Slay,” he says now.
Slay is a major part of an aggressive defense that could become Super Bowl champions as the NFC champions battle with the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. But that is not why you should thank the man. Thank him because he is one of the reasons the Lions are on the verge of greatness.
When he played in Detroit, he let teammates, management, and the world know things would never work out under Coach Matt Patricia. The front office took notice of Slay’s complaints, along with the losing, and formed a more radical team with General Manager Brad Holmes and Coach Dan Campbell.
Patricia viewed Darius Slay as a malcontent. He wasn’t. He was a hero because he said what everybody already knew but were perhaps afraid to say. The Lions were sinking again and needed a new direction.
Slay brings that Mamba mentality – a nod to his childhood hero Kobe Bryant. That’s the mind set he wanted to bring to Detroit, but Patricia was so enamored with his bend but don’t break style of defense that he told Slay to shut up and play football.
He didn’t. Instead of listening to the man, the Lions traded him to the Eagles in 2020 for a third and fifth-round draft pick. The Eagles didn’t hush Slay. They made him a captain for his first Super Bowl.
“I’m soaking it all in. It’s my first time in the Super Bowl, so I’m enjoying it because I’m not going to get too high or too low, but stay level,” Slay said. “Being in Detroit for seven years, it was hard. I went to the playoffs twice while I was in Detroit, and we did not get past the first round, so I’m thankful for the Eagles trading for me because now I get to experience my first Super Bowl.”
Slay wandered around The Palace looking lost following a 2018 game between the Los Angeles Lakers-Detroit Pistons game. He wanted to meet Bryant. I told him where to stand and Kobe would walk past him to get to the team bus.
Slay held a Bryant jersey, got it signed, and it was the first time I saw a pro athlete look like a kid. He was so excited.
He mentioned he played for the Lions.
The highlight for Slay came when Bryant said: “I know who you are. You are a great player. I will be checking you out on my Dish.”
Game, set, match.
Slay walked from that meeting on cloud nine.
He will walk into his final game of the season wearing a Kobe tattoo on his leg and ready to show the world that aggressive defenses win. The old Lions way did not.
Follow me on Twitter @TerryFosterDET
Photo Credit © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports