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The Detroit Lions and the camp darling epidemic

Analyzing the love affair the fans have with camp guys.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Death, taxes and Detroit Lions fans clinging to a player who has little chance of making the team. These are the things you can count on in life. I'll be up front right off the bat. I'm guilty of this too. It's pretty hard not to be when camp and preseason are underway and your excitement for the regular season is at its peak.

It's become something of a game for me the last few years. The game is called "find the darling." The good thing about this game is that everybody wins. There is always a player that's fighting for a shot to make the team or at least get some good work on film for the next team that's interested. When you see this sort of thing take place, you get your head in the clouds and forget about everything else. You forget that there's usually a better player ahead of him or it's the fourth quarter of a preseason game nobody cares about or he's playing against other guys that won't make their respective team either.

Well I'm here today to warn you that this is a sure fire way to get yourself all worked up and eventually disappointed. Unfortunately the guy you will eventually deem your camp darling will more than likely not make the team. And while you lament the coaches and general manager for not signing your guy, you'll soon realize why they didn't do it. Today I want to take a look at some of the more recent camp darlings and present them in something of a "where are they now?" type of light. Let's jump right in.

Zach Zenner

Put down the cleaver and stop trying to find my address from your creepy friend at the DMV. I like Zach Zenner and I think he is a guy that could and probably should make the final 53-man roster in August. But the fact remains, he's a complete camp darling. He showed up big in the preseason last year and everyone waxed poetic about his potential all summer long. Once the season started, he was MIA. The reason is he had three running backs ahead of him that were just plain better than him. With Joique Bell gone now, he may have a chance to play a larger role. But he'll have to get past Stevan Ridley first.

Matt Willis

Everybody loved Matt Willis. He was like this little ninja that could catch seemingly anything thrown to him...or so we thought at the time for some reason. Looking back at the stats, after a decent showing against the Jets in Week 1 of the preseason, he pretty much disappeared. I get it though. Lions fans were so desperate for a wide receiver at the time that they completely ignored that he did next to nothing. Where is he now? He stepped away from the NFL after the Lions cut him and he couldn't catch on elsewhere.

Carmen Messina

Carmen was my boy! I won't lie, I was high on this guy. Coming out of New Mexico as an undrafted free agent in 2012, I thought he was certain to make the team after his four tackle performance against the Browns in Week 1 of the preseason. Then he disappeared until the fourth game of the preseason when he had another good showing, He was cut a couple days later and placed on the practice squad. He signed a futures deal for the 2013 season, but was again excused during the preseason. I really jumped the gun here. Carmen hasn't been in the NFL since.

George Winn

Almost the biggest camp darling of the modern day Detroit Lions. George Winn was like the Jim Brown of the preseason. I warn everyone, please don't touch that take. Because it is scorching hot and unbelievably inaccurate. It was hard not to root for Winn. He was epitome of a guy who understood this was his chance and he needed to make things happen. And make them happen he did. He was invited to join the practice squad and later played in the regular season. In fact, he's still on the team. But like Zenner, there are just so many better options ahead of him. His total contribution to the Lions is 74 yards. Only one of which he got last season.

Kellen Moore

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the ultimate preseason darling. The legend of Kellen Moore knows no bounds. He's been compared to Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas and Otto Graham. Some of those comparisons are made up. The Joe Montana one definitely isn't.  Kellen spent three years on the Lions bench and never once had a chance to start. This didn't stop the world from creating tweets like this one.

The main thing these fans were saying was that Kellen needed a chance and once he got that chance, he would show the world what apparently every scout in the NFL didn't know: that he was a legend in the making. He got that chance last season with the Dallas Cowboys. He threw an interception on his second pass. Then proceeded to throw five more in the next two games. Which led to tweets like this

Ah I almost miss having him around just a little. Anyways, as we know, he's still on the Cowboys and crazy Jason Garrett believes he's the No. 2 to Tony Romo. We'll see where it goes.

What do you think? Who did I leave out? Should there be a part two to this? Leave your comments below or come tell me I'm wrong on Twitter @POD_Payton.

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