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Dan Campbell is changing the Lions culture one up-down at a time

It just feels different this time

Detroit Lions Training Camp Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

We do this every time. The DEtroit Lions get a new coach and then we overreact and overvalue the situation right away. We say, “This time feels different.” As a matter of fact, I’m sure I’ve said it. But, seriously, this time it really does feel different. I swear!

It’s only been one week since the Lions opened up training camp under new head coach Dan Campbell, but, boy, what a week it was. There was a feeling in the air that just felt right. Dan Campbell has been referred to as “The Dude” before due to his resemblance to Jeff Bridges and his laid back attitude that resembles Bridges’ iconic role as The Dude in “The Big Lebowski.” That movie has a great and memorable line in it that just seems to fit the Lions current situation perfectly.

“Sometimes there’s a man... and I’m talkin’ about The Dude here... sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place, he fits right in there. And that’s The Dude.”

That’s Dan Campbell. He’s the man for this time and place. Everything about this team just feels different because of him.

Campbell started things off in a way that we’ve never seen any Lions coach do. In fact, I can’t remember a time that I’ve seen any coach do this.

You have to immediately respect this move. Right off the bat, Campbell showed not just his team, but the entire city of Detroit that he’s willing to get his hands dirty and that he’s not bigger than the team. He demonstrated to his players here that he’s part of the team, he understands what it’s like to be a pro athlete and that he’s going to earn their respect. It worked. Players are already responding positively.

It’s not just his actions. It’s his words. Yes, saying that Michael Brockers could wield the hammer of Thor was cool and showed that Campbell understands Marvel lore, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about Campbell’s response to an awesome moment from Thursday’s practice. Newly-acquired defensive tackle Bruce Hector owed the team 40 up-downs—as all defenders started with the day before. About halfway through Hector’s 40, the rest of the team started to do the up-downs alongside him—just as Campbell had on the first day of camp.

Now listen to Campbell talk about that moment. See if you get the same chills that I did.

“They decided to do that on their own,” Campbell said. “That’s ultimately what you’re trying to get on both sides of the ball and special teams. I told them from day one, ‘Listen, at some point, this needs to become your team. Now, we’re part of it, but until that time comes, we’ll do our job as a staff. We’ll lead you and we’ll show you how it’s done, and we’ll show you what it’s supposed to look like. But at some point, we should not have to do much of anything other than coach technique.”

Continuing later.

“The best teams that I’ve ever been on—and any of these guys will tell you this, the coaches and some of the good players that are on this team—they will tell you the team handles everything themselves because you have to right guys, the right core, and the right leadership. That’s what we’re trying to get to.”

The guy just gets it. This is going to sound super cheesy, but I’m going to say it anyways. This isn’t about building a team, it’s about building a brotherhood. This team is trying to be a Disney sports movie and they might actually succeed in doing so.

There may actually be a time when the Lions roster gets together and realizes their differences make them stronger together, and then they’ll sing Katy Perry’s Roar at the top of their lungs and win the Super Bowl.

One of my favorite parts of Campbell is how he avoids lip service, at least not the lip service we’re use to hearing. Maybe it’s because Campbell played here, but the dude has just demonstrated on multiple occasions that he just gets what this franchise is all about. Lions fans are not normal football fans. They loyal as hell. They don’t just show up when the team is successful. They’re always here.

That’s why Campbell said, “There’s very few cities in this country to where if you can get a winner, it’s special.... if you win here, it’s special now.”

He recognizes that Detroit is dying for a winning football team and how special it would be to the city if they got one. He echoed those sentiments when he spoke to season ticket holders in attendance on Saturday.

I’m starting to really understand why Jordan Cameron said “everyone would run through a wall for Dan Campbell.” It’s only been a week, and I’m looking for the right wall. Like I said at the top, this feels different. The biggest way it feels different is that this by far the earliest into a coaching run that I’ve ever decided to just go ahead and say that this guy is the guy.

Write it down, send it to Freezing Cold Takes on Twitter, call me a homer and bookmark this article to throw it in my face later. I don’t care. Dan Campbell is the guy Lions fans have been waiting for.