Picture this scenario for a moment. It’s early Fall. The NFL season is underway, and you live in Detroit, MI. You’re having some friends visiting from out of town for the weekend, and it’s their first time in Motown. All of you eat, sleep, and breathe the NFL. You’re lifelong fans. Because it’s your friends’ first time in the Motor City, they want to watch a Detroit Lions game with Detroiters. Here’s the catch though––they also want to party a little bit. Before last season, Brass Rail Pizza Bar, Mix Bricktown, and several other locations could fill this void.
Then the Detroit Lions hired Lencare Sanders, also known as DJ Ray. And that instantly changed everything. Now Ford Field became the destination for this vibe.
Sanders carries over 15 years of experience as a DJ.
With his connections and reputation, you’ll be hard pressed to find a venue or company in Metro Detroit that did not contract his services before. He’s simply that good. Very few carry his reputation for knowing how to entertain a crowd.
That’s what he brought to Ford Field his first season.
Sanders brought a different energy to Detroit Lions before and after games, and during TV timeouts. He wasn’t the typical stadium DJ that only played only top 40 hits, and didn’t tap into what the fans liked. He played the music players would blast in locker rooms to hype themselves up.
Photo credit: DetroitLions.com
Now before games, you might hear some Gunna, Lil Baby, or Gucci Mane. Then, to show love to some hometown acts, he’d throw on some Sada Baby, Babyface Ray, Big Sean, or some Motown classics. And he’d still mix in the top 40 hits when suitable. Sanders tapped into Detroit’s (and Metro Detroit’s) demographic with his musical selection. His bag of musical selections was incredibly diverse.
Based on his job performance last season, one could surmise that the Detroit Lions hired him the first chance they got.
Well, not exactly.
In 2019, a good friend of his informed him that the Lions were looking for a DJ. This was a goal that DJ Ray wanted to accomplish. Before last season, he was a Detroit Lions season ticket holder. He’d often come to games and have ideas of how he’d DJ an NFL game if he had the opportunity. This open position was his “8 Mile moment”.
So Sanders did his due diligence to research the position. When he tried to apply online, he saw that the application link had expired.
However, he had an alternative plan to get noticed. Around this same time, he was working a job for his previous employer in the shipping & receiving department. Still looking in the Lions career section, he saw that the Lions had an opening in the same position he currently worked in.
Sanders applied and got a call back for that position. That’s when he decided to shoot his shot.
“In my interview, I let them know that I was a DJ around the city, Sanders told Woodward Sports. “I was able to [then] interview for the DJ position, but I didn’t get it. Then in 2021, I received an email from our now Vice President of Marketing [Emily Griffin] asking me if I was still interested in that position.”
“And of course I said ‘Yeah,’ and the rest is history.”
At that moment, Sanders transitioned from being a lifelong fan to a vital piece to the Detroit Lions gameday experience. It was quite the learning curve for him. Because of that, he had jitters before his first game.
“I do [remember] being very nervous,” Sanders said. “Literally, my hands were shaking because I knew I would be in control over a whole NFL Stadium. Doing that is something totally different than deejaying in a club or doing a party because you gotta keep the energy at a certain level for four quarters to help the team bring home a win.”
At a nightclub, a skilled DJ is known for his track selections, transitions, and being able to read the crowd. Great ones know how to control the tempo and energy in those club/party venues. That’s all Sanders knew of his position until joining the Detroit Lions. Even though his skills brought him to this chapter in his life––his dream job, he still had to learn a different approach.
Photo Credit: DetroitLions.com
“At a game, you to be ready and expecting the next big moment,” said Sanders.” “If [the Lions] get an interception, you don’t have those two seconds to ‘Oh what song can I play that will have the crowd ready to go,’ or drive the energy.”
“You also want to have songs prepared that’s going to help tell the story of the play or the big moment that just took place. It’s almost like putting together a puzzle…a jigsaw puzzle. You want to make sure the pieces fit.”‘
Let’s be clear about one thing regarding Sanders, or DJ Ray, and his level of importance/significance working for the Detroit Lions. Fans of the team attend games for the on-field product. They’re paying those expensive ticket prices to see what the players do on the field. However, there’s no guarantee whether a team will have a winning or losing season.
And with a season like the one the Lions had last year, it’s great to have other talent in the building like DJ Ray that can keep the crowd going when things aren’t going well on the field.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.