2018 roster cut down day was a little different for Detroit Lions tight end Hakeem Valles this time around. The undrafted Monmouth product had trouble sticking on an NFL roster after the Arizona Cardinals scooped him up as a free agent after the 2016 draft. He bounced between the practice squad and active roster in Arizona before joining the Lions to do the same in 2017. Like many other players, it looked like his career was never truly going to amount to anything more than a fringe roster talent that would rarely see any playing time.
This preseason changed everything for him, though. Valles was set to be nothing more than another camp body entering the season, but a stand out preseason earned him a spot on the initial 53-man roster for the first time in his career.
“This year was a lot longer because the call never came after two years straight of getting that call,” Valles told reporters after the team’s first practice of the regular season.
The tight end looked like a lock on the roster after putting together a month of great football, but for a player who had been left on the outside so many times, it was hard for him to feel safe.
With fellow tight ends Michael Roberts and Levine Toilolo failing to do anything to impress the Lions so far, it is realistic to believe that Valles will have a crucial role on the team this season. He is arguably the second-best tight end on the 53-man roster and may even get starting designations in some early season contests.
As a player that has been on the outside looking in so many times, he knows that he shouldn’t get complacent.
Detroit is still doing everything they can to solidify their roster before their opening game against the New York Jets on Monday night. They already brought in linebacker Marquis Flowers among others to help bolster some of their weaknesses, and every time a player comes in another must go out.
“Everybody’s getting evaluated every day, so you don’t know what could happen,” Valles said when asked about his future on the team.
The tight end knows better than anyone that you must continue to work to succeed in this league. For now, though, Monday night gives him his first opportunity to truly contribute as a Detroit Lion.