Lions drafts provide comic relief/Paul Peterson
The Detroit Lions never fail to amaze their long-suffering fan base.
The National Football League team has also given the public some of its best comic relief on draft day.
Take, if you will, the hullabaloo that surrounded such picks as Chuck Long, Andre Ware, Aaron Gibson and Joey Harrington.
Long was reputed to be a strong-armed quarterback out of Iowa when the Lions used a No. 1 pick on him in 1986. He had finished runner-up to Auburn’s Bo Jackson in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy. He appeared ready to fulfill that promise when he threw a touchdown in his very first pass as a pro.
Unfortunately for Detroit fans, he would finish an abbreviated NFL career with 19 TDs, 28 interceptions and numerous fumbles.
Ware was an even more mystifying no-show for the team in 1990 after winning the Heisman Trophy for the University of Houston as a junior. In four unspectacular seasons in Detroit, he accounted for a whopping five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Ware, who threw for 44 touchdowns and 4,440 yards in his final season against the likes of UNLV, Temple, SMU and Rice, was wildly erratic in Motown. In truth, he would have had difficulty finding Lake Superior from a dock in Copper Harbor. He’s now a football commentator on television.
Gibson, a massive tackle from Wisconsin, was advertised as the answer to Detroit’s woes on the offensive line a decade ago.
But his weight flucuated anywhere from 320 to 400 pounds, and he quickly became one of the league leaders in holding penalties and false starts. In one memorable game, he jumped on an opponent a good 10 seconds after a play ended. It prompted a Detroit columnist to come up with a classic line:
“He (Gibson) pounced on his (foe) like he was a juicy double cheeseburger,” the writer said of the play that ultimately cost the Lions a shot at winning the game.
Harrington, a strapping 6-foot-3, 220 pounder from Oregon, was said to have a NFL arm. But after a promising rookie start, he quickly became another casualty of the Lions “draft curse.” He finished his career with a very pedestrian 79 TD passes and 85 picks.
An accomplished jazz pianist, Harrington is now a college football analyst and appears on the same show with Erin Andrews. Not a bad gig for the slightly underachieving former Oregon Duck.
This year, the Lions took defensive lineman Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah of BYU with the fifth overall pick in the draft. Ansah, who didn’t even know how to put on football pads three years ago, is projected (wouldn’t you know) as a project much like Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants.
While Ansah does have potential to be a productive player, when was the last time potential alone has paid dividends?
And then’s there is Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland of YouTube fame. He’s in the Detroit camp, vying with veteran David Akers to fill the shoes of retired Jason Hanson. Yes, the Norwegian had never put on a football helmet until last week’s rookie orientation drills.
Rugland has kicked from every conceivable location.
We know he can kick over a boat on a lake, a car on a road and off a cliff. He just may be doing the latter in Detroit should he make the team.
At least, Detroit didn’t waste a draft pick on him.
It’s said the Lions are looking for some receiving help this off-season for the ultra-talented Calvin Johnson.
Maybe the Flying Wallendas are available …