When Detroit Lions Coach Jim Schwartz accepted the challenge of taking on the first NFL team to ever go 0-16, the major thing he knew about the job was the team needed a quarterback.
Schwartz is confident he addressed that need when the Lions snapped up Georgia Bulldogs signal caller Matt Stafford with the first selection in the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25.
It's well documented that Stafford attended the same high school as Lions legend Bobby Layne, who was the last quarterback to lead Detroit to an NFL Championship long before many of us were born in 1957. Stafford has also been getting mentored by Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame Quarterback Troy Aikman.
With Detroit's second first round selection, Schwartz got another Lions history lesson whether he realizes it or not.
During the 1989 NFL Draft, Detroit selected Oklahoma State Cowboys Running Back Barry Sanders in the first round, third overall. Sanders, 5-8 frame wouldn't hinder him in the pros as he was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, gained 15,269 rushing and 2,921 receiving yards for a total of 18, 190 from scrimmage. Sanders rushed for 99 touchdowns and added 10 more receiving for 109. These numbers don't reflect how many knee injuries and careers he ended with his dynamic breakaway ability.
Sanders holds 10 Lions team records and was a two time NFL offensive player of the year.
The former Heisman Trophy winner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 8, 2004 in the same class as Denver Broncos legend John Elway.
On draft day 2009, the Lions went back to Oklahoma State for help thanks to a trade made last season with the Dallas Cowboys which sent Wide Receiver Roy Williams home to Texas.
With the 20th selection overall in the first round, Detroit selected Tight End Brandon Pettigrew to give Stafford a blocker and another target.
Now we have the ultimate irony.
The 20th selection, 20 years later playing for a team where the last player to wear the No. 20 was a fellow alumnus, in Barry Sanders.
Stafford has his long threat in Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson formerly of Georgia Tech.
It's highly unlikely that Pettigrew will ever post numbers even close to Barry Sanders especially at his position. But with the help of another Lions Hall of Fame Tight End Charlie Sanders, if Pettigrew can be a major factor in Stafford's ability to lead Detroit back to a contender, regular playoff participant, finally reaching a Super Bowl and championship status, Detroiters would be thrilled if all of the above occurred.
The 6-6, 263 pound native from Tyler, Texas., receiving numbers will mean much less as long as the Lions sack totals decrease.
Pettigrew doesn't have to be a Hall of Fame performer as Barry Sanders turned out to be. Lions fans would be happy if he isn't in the Hall of Shame and that he doesn't become another draft mistake which places the bust label on him.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com
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