“Sheila Hamp is unsung hero for new look Detroit Lions”
Detroit Lions Special Assistant to the President/CEO and Chairperson Chris Spielman felt uneasy when boos showered Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp during a 2021 ceremony at Ford Field to honor Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson tried to calm the crowd to no avail.
Spielman stood on the field to celebrate a great career, but felt no joy as frustrated fans let Hamp have it.
The Ford family deserved to be booed by restless Lions fans. Shelia Ford Hamp did not deserve those cat calls. She was already hard at work changing the culture of the Lions, doing everything she could to turn this once putrid franchise into winners.
It was too soon for her magic to work. Fans believed she’d be no different than her father William Clay Ford Sr. who led a Lions team that won just one playoff game in the six decades he owned the team. Or they believed she’d be like her mother Martha Ford who allowed a Trojan horse filled with Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn to infiltrate the franchise.
These fans did not know that Hamp already was working on a new Lions foundation that was still settling in the ground. It was too soon to take hold. There was the 0-10-1 start to the 2021 season where Sam Old Lions rang across the kingdom. Many feared Campbell was nothing but a loudmouth yard barker with all bark and no substance.
The boos motivated Spielman to work harder.
All that did was motivate me more because I took that personally,” Spielman told The Detroit News. “When they booed her, I took it personally because I’m here to help her. If people knew her passion and how much she cares about the team, the coaches and the whole organization, and what a fierce competitor she is. I remember the first time I watched a game with her, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ She’s yelling and screaming and hollering. It was eye-opening. It made me more convicted to do what I said I would do for her.”
The competitive spirit began as a nationally ranked junior tennis player and varsity player at Yale University.
She now goes by the name Sheila Hamp, having dropped the Ford from her name for public consumption. I am not sure why she did it. I assume it’s because Ford is a four-letter word in this town.
The Lions are now that “it” team. Following a 9-8 season sparked by an 8-2 finish, the Lions are favorite by Las Vegas to win their first division title since 1993 (10-6) when Barry Sanders rushed for 1,115 yards. That would be a huge accomplishment because 13 of the last 14 Super Bowl teams won a division title.
Plenty are taking credit for digging the Lions out of the ashes. Coach Dan Campbell deserves credit because he has ushered in a new mentality and has players believing because of his rah-rah approach. General Manager Brad Holmes is getting credit for bringing in fresh talent and working it all under the NFL’s salary cap.
She is not her parent’s owner.
The unsung hero is Sheila Hamp. She is not her parent’s owner. Campbell taught us about kneecaps and toughness. It was Hamp’s idea to bring this fierceness to the Lions. She cannot do it in the way Campbell does (Who on Earth can?) because she lacks the outward personality to pull it off. However, Hamp had a vision that is forwarded by the new hires.
We know about Spielman, a man who she leaned on heavily to bring in Campbell and Holmes and continue the upward progress of the Lions. Another guy we don’t know about is Todd Reinhart, Manager of Members Services, who has pushed the Lions into the modern era off the field. He came from the Miami Dolphins and was part of a team that has made the game-day experience more enjoyable and fan friendly.
Campbell is not the only one talking about breaking knee caps. There are plenty behind the scenes people who bring that same mentality. These people are not Detroit Lions support workers. They are Detroit Lions in much the way Aiden Hutchinson and Jared Goff are.
Like her parents Hamp prefers to stand in the background and let people do their jobs. She only becomes vocal when she believes her input on an issue is essential. However, she is steadfast on not getting in the way of on field personnel decisions.
A solid foundation for a consistently terrific team.
“Sticking to the plan is often hard,” Hamp told Detroit Lions.com. “You have the temptation to go, ‘Oh, let’s go out and get this player’ or ‘let’s do that.’ Well, that’s just not the way we want to build things. We want to build things with a solid foundation for the future so that we are consistently a terrific team.”
Her parents were nice people who were a bit standoffish. Lions players in the 1990s wanted to express their concerns to Ford Sr. but believed he would not listen. They believed the only player he’d listen to was star running back Barry Sanders, who refused to share player concerns with the owner.
Hamp is not particularly outgoing but is willing to listen to players. She engages with them more and is known to spread hugs after wins, something her parents rarely did. She still commands respect but is willing to forge relationships with Lions players and workers.
Hamp also refuses to interfere with the plans laid forward by Campbell or Holmes although she enjoys spending draft night with the Lions’ brain trust.
“I see my role evolving and changing in that I think we’ve got a great coach,” Hamp said. “We’ve got a terrific general manager. I want to know and be involved with them and their thinking and seeing how they work, and then you let them do their work.
But I have every confidence in them, and I would never meddle. You’ve set a vision.”
One Lions Insider put it this way while talking to Woodward Sports: “She is in the background but is not afraid to give an opinion. “She won’t say ‘you cannot do this or cannot do that” but she lets you know how she feels.”
For more from the author Terry Foster, check him out on Twitter here: @terryfosterdet
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