A few years back, the Detroit Lions committed to several different social outreach programs after the protests during the national anthem got owner Martha Ford’s attention. One of those programs was the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative: The Brotherhood & Sisterhood.
Last Thursday, five Lions players—Teez Tabor, Devon Kennard, Tavon Wilson, Da’Shawn Hand and Charles Washington—traveled to the most dangerous part of Detroit to take part in that program, which aims to create opportunities for young people with help from the local police department.
Also there was MLive reporter Kyle Meinke, who wrote this fantastic story about the different side of Teez Tabor he saw that Thursday evening.
The Detroit Lions cornerback doesn’t say much these days back in Allen Park. But here, surrounded by the blight and urban decay that still plagues so much of this rebounding city, Tabor feels right at home. And on Thursday, as part of a player-driven social justice initiative, he opened up. He opened up about the streets he survived back in Washington DC. About the drug use that followed him to Florida. About that one time he had to hide a brick of weed from the cops during a traffic stop.
Meinke may be understating things. Tabor didn’t just open up, he put his entire heart on the line and admitted some vulnerable things to the room of kids.
Tabor admitted as recently as last year, his heart just wasn’t in the game and his career was close to ending.
“I was last one in the building and first one out, when I should have been the first one in and last one out,” Tabor admitted about last season. “Like, this past year, it was like, ‘Am I ever going to be what they want me to be? What they brought me here to be?’ The questions were, like, ‘Man, can I still do this? Am I still good?’”
Tabor traced his attitude problem back to his college days at Florida. Tabor notably failed a drug test, faced a suspension for not taking another test at Florida and had a “serious altercation” with a teammate. There were plenty of character concerns with Tabor after his rocky career at Florida, and the young cornerback didn’t shy away from those during his time with the kids on Thursday.
He got caught in the weed culture and it nearly cost him his college career.
“So I started smoking,” Tabor said. “Maybe like four months into my freshman year, I was cool with all the seniors, they taught me how to cheat the drug tests. ... That was the thing — you smoke, you ball, you play good, you get the girls. That’s what I was in.”
But after another run-in with the cops—in which they nearly caught him with a full brick of marijuana—Tabor said he changed his ways. He had to cut off things with his best friend, he had to move on from his street life, and he had to change his ways.
Now, Tabor faces a similar conundrum. Two years of an NFL career and nothing to show for it. It’s another dire wake-up call for Teez and he has sprung into action.
“(I told myself) either you’re going to fall back in love with the game, or you’re going to be gone like you was never here. So at the end of (last) year, I evaluated everything I did during the year. I evaluated my whole everything. I needed to lose weight, I needed to lose body fat, I needed to get faster, get stronger. I needed to play the situations better. I feel like after last season I made a decision to, like, start doing this (stuff) so I can fall back in love with the game.
”I fell out of love with the game, and now I’m back in love with the game.”
We’ve already seen some of that pay of for the Lions cornerback. With Darius Slay sitting out minicamp and OTAs, the Lions trusted Tabor to take first-team reps with the defense. Early on, he’s been making a lot of plays. But Tabor isn’t flaunting this time around. In fact, he’s not all that happy with his play thus far.
“I ain’t doing too good right now,” Tabor admitted after an up-and-down practice last Wednesday. “It’s a lot of things I need to work on still, and I’m glad that the offense is giving me a great look out here so I can just work on a lot of things.”
Tabor has been far from perfect this offseason, and he still faces an uphill battle to make the Lions’ 53-man roster, but if this “new” Teez is any indication, his mind is finally in the right place.