Justin Durant, the Detroit Lions' newest outside linebacker, has several passions in his life. Not surprisingly, his job and his family rank among them. But you might not know the 6'1", 240-pound linebacker also has a lifelong passion for music.
Recently, I spoke with Durant about his love of music, and how moving to Detroit has helped that passion bloom into a creative outlet.
"I've been serious about music since I was about eight or nine years old. Just going to the record store, getting new stuff that was coming out. I never had this outlet, though, until I came up here."
Durant has a new music column at Metro Times, a Detroit-area newsmagazine with print and online editions. I asked him how the new gig was going.
"Going pretty well," he said. "I've got a column that I write for them, kind of like a blog, where I'm just expressing how I feel about certain types of music or certain music that I'm listening to at the time. It's pretty interesting."
As is the case with many Bleacher Report writers, sportswriting is a passion and a hobby for me. As a ponytail-sporting, thick-glasses-wearing, conjoined-to-a-smartphone creative type, though, it doesn't surprise people when they find out I have many irons in the fire.
But as an NFL linebacker, especially a physically imposing run-stuffer, I wondered if Durant's day job opened doors for him or acted as a barrier to people taking him seriously. After all, a guy who spends his days pumping iron and hitting tackling dummies seems unlikely to spend his nights at record shops and catching shows in Detroit clubs.
"So far," he told me, "the reaction I've gotten has been real positive. I don't consider myself a writer, or anything like that, I just think that I have an ear for music."
As someone who counts both writing and musicianship amongst his sideline trades, I'm quite impressed with the work he's done for Metro Times so far. Durant was quite humble while assessing his own talents.
"I'm not creative like that," he said. "I can't play any instruments, I can't rap or anything like that. I just enjoy it and love it a lot. Like I said, the response has been 100 percent; everybody's been loving it. So, I'm just happy and I appreciate it so far."
I knew he was selling himself short. Durant's been learning to DJ; his @JDurant52 Twitter profile shows him at work behind a mixer. I asked him how he was progressing in learning his first instrument.
"Honestly," he said, "I've been slacking. I haven't really been practicing. We've got a lot going on with the season, and that's always my number one priority. But as soon as the season's over, I'll be going back at it full tilt."
Coming up out of South Carolina and playing his first three years in Jacksonville, Durant has spent most of his life well away from the rich, diverse and historically crucial Detroit music scene. I asked him how he was enjoying his exposure to new styles and artists.
"It's been great so far. A lot of great artists are coming out of Detroit. A lot of people hit me up on Twitter, sending me music that I should listen to."
Unsurprisingly, the bizarre NFL offseason and the whirlwind pace took a toll on getting acclimated to off-field life.
"I haven't had a chance to get fully into it," he said, "but I'm trying my best to get to know some other guys I didn't hear of before I came up here."
The Lions' front seven is gaining a reputation as one of the most physical, ruthless and unrelenting in the NFL. But between Durant's music column, Stephen Tulloch's wine tastings and Lawrence Jackson's philosophical pursuits, they must also be one of the most enlightened.
I asked Justin if the apparent disconnect between on-field demeanor and off-field hobbies is as unusual as it seems.
"I think it's just the age where everyone knows what's going on," he told me. "You're a lot more accessible to the public, so everyone knows your hobbies, the things that you're into. With Twitter and Facebook, you can interact with people a lot more. So the things the players are into are coming to light much more so than in the past."
There may not be a city that better appreciates his his day-job skills, or gives his off-field passions a better outlet, than Detroit.
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