Last week at opening day the Detroit Tigers had an awesome moment, honoring four legends of Detroit sports to kick off their home schedule. The Lions’ Calvin Johnson, Red Wings’ Nick Lidstrom, Pistons’ Ben Wallace and Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera all simultaneously threw out the first pitch. It was fun to see three Hall of Famers—and one future Hall of Famer—all honored.
The problem is the playing career of most of these guys has been over for years. It’s been over a decade since Lidstrom and Wallace suited up. It’s somehow been seven years since Johnson’s sudden retirement. Only Cabrera has played in the modern day, and unfortunately his Tigers have been mostly irrelevant since 2014.
We’ve been waiting for Detroit sports to turn the corner since these legends left the game, and it really only appears that the Lions are suited to finally do so.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Who will be the next generation of these Detroit sports legends.
My answer: I’m going to stay in my lane and just address the Lions here, but I’d love to hear answers about all four teams.
There are several candidates for Detroit, but it always starts with quarterback. Interestingly, the Lions really have two options here. Matthew Stafford could hold that honor for 12 years of exciting play in Detroit, but with his only postseason success in Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine him being put on the same level as the legends of last week.
If the Lions make a deep run in the next year or two, it’s entirely possible Goff usurps him as a Detroit sports legend. It would be a little unconventional after having spent his first five years in Los Angeles, but winning a Super Bowl in Detroit would immediately put you in an untouchable category. And, remember, he’s only 28 years old. If he continues down a successful path, he could be here for the next seven or eight years to build out an entirely new reputation. Considering where this team has been at the quarterback position, it sure is nice to talk about an era of Lions football in which the quarterbacking hasn’t been god awful.
But right now it seems like the path to Detroit superstardom lies elsewhere. The Lions’ two best players at their position also happen to be two people with endearing personalities. Penei Sewell seems destined to be an annual Pro Bowl and All Pro candidate, he’s still just 22 years old, and he’s not afraid to mix it up a little on the field—giving Detroit that gritty attitude that Dan Campbell wants. Amon-Ra St. Brown brings a similar demeanor to the team and has backed that up with stellar play that his him bordering on “elite” play just a couple years into his career.
There are certainly a few other candidates that could reach this level. Frank Ragnow somehow remains underappreciated. Aidan Hutchinson is well on his way to being a legend—and his career at Michigan will help—but he will need to continue his fantastic production from his rookie season. Jameson Williams could absolutely be a superstar in this league, but he hasn’t really been let out of the box yet.
The truth is the Lions have several candidates to be idolized in Detroit sports history, and that alone is a pretty awesome sign of this team’s trajectory.