The 15th Annual Detroit Lions Luncheon, held on Wednesday at Ford Field, was a mechanism of charity and appreciation from the franchise to its community.
During the sold out event, the organization also took the opportunity to recognize some of the team’s outstanding individuals – both on and off the field – from 2010.
The award winners were: Nate Burleson (Mike Utley Spirit award), Drew Stanton (Chuck Hughes Most Improved Player Award and Robert Porcher Man of the Year award), Kyle Vanden Bosch (Joe Schmidt Leadership award), Calvin Johnson (Bobby Layne Offensive MVP), Stefan Logan (Yale Lary Special Teams MVP), Jeff Backus and Dominic Raolia (Eric Andolsek Top O-Lineman award) and Ndamukong Suh (Mel Farr Rookie of the Year award and Lem Barney Defensive MVP award).
As those eight players stood on the stage, holding their awards, it appeared to be a testament to the progress the team has made under the leadership of general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
“To see those eight guys standing up here just a second ago,” said Lewand “I can tell you for the first time in the 17 years (of his tenure with the Lions), we’ve never had eight guys up here that all 31 teams would trade their eye and tooth for and that we wouldn’t give up for anything. That tells you something about where we’ve been but more importantly where we are going.”
The progression of this team wouldn’t have been possible without the cohesive management of both Lewand and Mayhew, who have the same plan and vision for the franchise.
“(When) he and I had the opportunity to put our stamp on the franchise and to instill our philosophy of what kind of team we wanted to build it was very simple…” said Lewand. “All we promised is that we were going to work hard and we were going to do it the right way, those are easy things to say and they are kind of cliché. But when you mean them I think they really have value and they can produce results.”
After Lewand and Mayhew took over the reins of the then-floundering franchise during the 2008 season, they looked to instill a new culture and philosophy. Focusing on team chemistry and players who complement one another both in and out of the locker room – among other things - the two had a plan and were ready to execute.
But, first they needed their coach.
Enter head coach Jim Schwartz, who joined the team in 2009.
“That kind of effort that they collectively put together wouldn’t be possible without that guy that Martin and I left in Nashville some two and a half years ago and got on the plane and said ‘we found him’.” Said Lewand, speaking of Schwartz’s ability to maximize the talents and potential of his players.
There is still a long road ahead – and a lot of work to do – but the Lions have a plan.
As the franchise continues to improve, their outreach within the community through charitable events and donations will become stronger. Both the Lions and the city they represent continue to grow together.