ALLEN PARK - A lot of eyes rolled when the Lions selected running back Brian Calhoun in the third round instead of an offensive lineman. Most observers felt Detroit needed to find a top flight guard to fill the hole next to left tackle Jeff Backus.
Well, Lions seventh round pick Fred Matua said they did exactly that when Detroit selected him because he feels he and USC teammate "Deuce" Lutui were the top players in the country at their position.
But while Lutui was the second guard picked (behind Oklahoma's Davin Joseph who went in the first round to Tampa Bay 23rd overall, Lutui was 41st overall), Matua watched as thirteen guards were selected before the Lions called his number, 217th overall.
"It humbles you, just to see what people think of you," lamented Matua.
"After last year, I felt me and my other guard, Deuce Lutui, were the top two guards in the country. We played like it, we opened holes and the numbers don't lie."
But Matua was philosophical about the selection and intends to prove the skeptics wrong.
"You can't control the draft and how it works. You just got to go with whatever you do and make the most of your opportunity. There's some people that get drafted in the second round and after their two or three years are done, they're out the league."
"I never had any major surgeries, never tore my ACL or MCL, knock on wood. I guess one of the NFL teams (said) I failed one of their physicals," explained Matua for his freefall from the being an expected third of fourth round pick.
"They said one of my knees was bad (according to) their MRI, they looked at it and said it wasn't good enough. [That's] one team out of thirty and it got around and that's what happened. (But) I knew exactly what I was getting into when I left early to come here and that's the way the dice roll and I'm ready to go with it. I don't regret anything, I'm happy where I'm at."
Now that he's in Detroit, he knows that some peg him as a long shot to make the team and there's little to no chance for him to gain the starting position next to Backus, but Matua has a game plan.
"I don't like sitting on the bench. Hopefully I can get the offense down well enough that I can help this team out. That's my main goal, that's one of my main goals of the "O" line coach (Larry Beightol) is for me to contribute to this team," he said. "Once the veterans come in, they're going to show me the ropes and they're going to help me out and I'm just going to try to pick it up from there."
He says don't discount his chances of not only making the team, but starting from day one.
"I've always played the underdog since growing up and coming from the city. Going to SC having guys saying I wasn't going to start -- and I started as a true freshman," he said. "That's the same thing I'm going to try to do here."
Matua says one thing he has to avoid is gaining weight between now and the next minicamp at the end of May.
When asked what he's going to do over the next few days, he joked, "A lot of running and staying away from my mom on Sundays.
"My mom, when she starts cooking it's all over with. I'm one of the guys that has to eat light so that I won't gain too much weight," he said. "Especially us Samoans we got thick skins. Samoans, man, if you know anymore Samoans around here... I think (former Lion) Luther Ellis was around here.
"So you'll understand once we eat something it sticks to us and it takes a while for us to work it off, but that's why we're so strong. That's how we do it," he joked.
The offensive line for Detroit is a reclamation project with only three spots determined. With several players recouping from injury, Matua plans to make his presence felt and be a player that the coaching staff can count on.