"Some fans think I have a chip on my shoulder or something. That just isn't the case."
David Sloan was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1995.
The tight end out of New Mexico was part of a class which included Luther Elliss, Stephen Boyd, and Cory Schlesinger.
In his rookie year, Wayne Fontes led his team to a 10-6 record while Sloan had 17 receptions—one for a touchdown.
In 1999, Bobby Ross coached his Lions squad to 8-8. Sloan caught 47 passes from Charlie Batch and Gus Frerotte and four touchdowns. That year, he joined Wesley Walls as a tight end for the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Fast forward to 2009 and a lot is different for David Sloan.
He's currently driving through North Dakota—a fate no one should wish on their worst enemy—recruiting for Southwest Baptist University, a small independent division II school in Missouri. Sloan had enrolled in the NFLPA Coaching Intern program, which works with Division II/III schools to help former players get their feet wet in the coaching world.
Sloan assisted the Bearcats to a 6-5 record coaching the team's tight end.
No, that isn't supposed to be plural.
The Southwest Baptist University Bearcats run a spread offense and one athlete pulled double duty this year, splitting out as a receiver and helping block with his hand on the ground.
Sloan spent much of his time one-on-one with the young man, teaching him some of the things that made him a Pro Bowler in Detroit and an eight year NFL veteran.
Sloan, however, didn't stop there.
Eager to earn his chops and learn as much as possible, Sloan helped out with special teams as well.
In fact, this recruiting trip to Minnesota and North Dakota? Sloan is volunteering his time.
Technically, his job is over. Sloan could be back home with his wife and two daughters (ages five and three). Instead, he is happy that his head coach allowed him to go on the trip to learn an important facet of the college game.
One day, David Sloan would love to coach professional football, but he is realistic. He doesn't want to earn a coaching gig with connections. He wants to learn the job and earn a spot. He's spending his time networking, applying for jobs, and starting from scratch.
"I love the coaching...the teaching aspect of it."
Before he makes it to the NFL, Sloan will bide his time in very much the same way many former players have—learning to teach the things that made him a great player. He doesn't expect the Lions to come calling anytime soon–although they did for good friend Bradford Banta) but he would jump at the chance to coach for his alma mater, The University of New Mexico Lobos.
Don't expect to see Sloan joining Charlie Sanders on Lions' sidelines anytime soon. Sloan wants to coach, and would rather start at the bottom, teaching young players, than sitting up in a booth.
He understands that he didn't leave Detroit on the greatest of terms.
When he was a free agent in 2002, he fully expected the Lions to give him a low offer—one he probably would have expected. However, the Lions went a different strategy and entrusted the position to Mikhael Ricks.
The Lions went 3-13 under Marty Mornhinweg.
"I thought they would at least come to the table and negotiate."
Sloan has no hard feelings. He knows his own history with injuries and he understands that his time afterward with New Orleans was unspectacular. It is a unique situation if a player retires with the same team his is drafted with, and he calls the decision not to re-sign him, a "good decision " on the Lions' part.
After football, David Sloan wanted nothing to do with the game. He, like most retired players, felt he had a few more years in him. He couldn't watch the game on Sundays and tried his hand at various tasks like real estate and selling medical supplies.
Now, back in football, he roots for the Lions every Sunday and wants to make it very clear to everyone he has no sour taste in his mouth and no chip on his back. He made it back to Detroit last year as an honorary captain when the Lions faced the Chicago Bears on September 30.
When he's in town, he makes sure to catch up with Jason Hanson. Otherwise, Sloan explains that the NFL isn't like college where kids come in together and spent their whole time with each other. NFL players come in and out of each other's lives. Except for an occasional phone call with Banta, Boyd or Schlesinger, he doesn't maintain a lot of contact with the organization.
He doesn't have a lot to say about the current Lions' squad. He thinks they have a lot of young talent that have the tools to be very good—especially rookie tight end, Brandon Pettigrew.
"He should be monster."
David Sloan would know what it takes to be a Detroit Lions tight end. His career receiving numbers are behind only the hall-of-famer, Sanders, Jim Gibbons, and David Hill.
Arguably, Sloan was the best blocker in that group.
Although his body eventually suffered from numerous injuries, he will always be remembered as a hard nosed player—perfect for a coach like Fontes or Ross.
The attitude and work ethic that once made David Sloan a coach's dream could very well make him a dream coach. Now, like always, Sloan isn't willing to look for the easy way out. In high school and college, that attitude eventually led him to the NFL.
It's only a matter of time before it leads him back.
Michael Schottey is a Detroit Lions Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and the producer and host of The Average Joe Sports Show on 860AM KNUJ (New Ulm, MN). He is also an NFL Analyst and Senior Writer for DraftTek.com. Follow Him on Twitter.