Many have gone to see the Detroit Lions out in the community during the offseason. They are heavily involved in working with Michigan-based fire departments, schools, police departments and kids in general.
There is a commitment to "giving back" and I was fortunate enough to see this first-hand during one of their many basketball events to raise money for various organizations.
Let me first say: There is a reason these guys play football.
They are not very good at playing basketball.
I saw more "granny" shots and balls thrown overhand right past the backboard through the gymnasium door and into the hallway then I have ever seen in my entire life. At one point, I asked a woman who was there with rookie defensive end Robert Callaway if they were really that bad, or if they were just trying to psyche the other team out. She laughed and said, "No, they are always this bad."
Of course, the point was not for them to win (though they "miraculously" did with the help of some youngsters from the crowd, a terrible score keeper and a generous referee), but to be present to help raise money for the local fire department and to interact with fans. It was another proud day for this particular fan to watch her team show its "softer" sides.
On the field they are anything but soft. The players who were present, aside from the already mentioned Robert Callaway, were:
Eric Fowler (WR who never actually played for the Lions but was on their practice squad several times), Rob Rubick (played seven seasons with the Lions as a tight-end from 1982-1988), Cory Schlesinger (played full-back from 1995-2006), Dave Rayner (current kicker) and Cliff Avril (current defensive end).
I was able to get a one-on-one interview with Cory.
If you've ever watched Cory play, you know what a beast he was on the field. It was his primary job, after all, to block for Barry Sanders, and we all know how successful Barry was.
Cory may not have the name recognition that Sanders does, but he deserves to. He is soft-spoken like Barry and doesn't draw attention to himself, but once you hit on the things he is passionate about, he has much to say.
I asked Cory how many events he does each year as a representative of the Detroit Lions. He said "about 15-20". That is commitment from the guy who had to have more face masks replaced than Joan Rivers has had "face replacement" surgery. He literally played so hard and with such ferocity that he would break his own face mask. It has been suggested that he broke 200 face masks in his career.
This tough guy on the field said, "I love these events. I love being able to give back to the kids and the fans who saw us through some pretty tough years."
It seems it is one way for Cory to say, "thank you" to the people of Michigan who never gave up on the Lions. Now, he and the other players are showing that they haven't given up on the fans and the struggling communities hit hard by recession. They lifted the spirits of this small community they played in on Saturday night and gave them an evening when they did not have to think about what Monday morning would bring.
Cory is now a strength and conditioning coach for all of the players at Allen Park High School, where he is also a CAD instructor. When I brought up that Kyle Vanden Bosch was bringing several players together during this lockout to keep up their own strength and conditioning program, he smiled.
"Yeah, I wish they would come and work out with me," he replied, adding, "Kyle is always intense. He never quits. I really would love to work out with him."
There you go, Kyle. If you are reading this, please go to Allen Park High School and ask for Cory. In case you were wondering if he has lost his edge, rest assured he hasn't. He was like standing next to Hulk Hogan.
Something tells me that Cory and Kyle have a lot in common when it comes to giving it all, no matter what they are doing.
The final bit I was able to sneak in before Cory hit the courts was about Vanden Bosch's role as the union representative for the Lions and how he thinks this will play out.
He smiled again when I asked about Kyle and the appearance of a stale-mate between the union and owners.
Cory laughed and said, "Have you ever met the guy? Like I said, he's intense. Kyle will get the job done."
Schlesinger did show his concern about the lockout though, and added, "If there isn't any NFL football next season, it is going to hurt a lot more people than just the players."
I couldn't have said it any better myself, Cory. Thanks for representing the Lions and making a difference in our communities.