The Detroit Lions have officially hit the big time. They have received quite a bit of press thanks to their winning streak, and even before the season they were being hyped quite a bit. Thanks to their 4-0 start, the hype surrounding the Lions is through the roof, and Sports Illustrated added to it by putting Calvin Johnson on the national cover of this week's issue.
As far as I can tell, this is the first time the Lions have been on the cover since Barry Sanders graced the cover of the Hall of Fame Edition of Sports Illustrated on Aug. 5, 2004. Before that, the Lions had Joey Harrington grace the cover of the Nov. 11, 2002, issue that focused on "Young Guns of the NFL." There was even a quote on the cover from Harrington that said, "I know I can play in this league." That sure turned out well.
In the 1990s, the Lions were on the cover three times. Two of the covers were Sanders. The first was in September 1990 and had the title "Mr. Mighty Mite" with a picture of Sanders. The other cover featuring Sanders was in August 1999 after he retired. Peter King's cover story focused on "Why Barry Bolted."
Interestingly enough, a month later the Lions were back on the cover with a picture of Chris Claiborne and a caption that read, "The Lions are on top, the Pack is on its back, and the Broncos, Vikings and Niners are reeling. What's going on?" I almost asked myself the same thing when I saw Johnson on this week's cover. It's hard to believe just how far this team has come in only a few years.