Being drafted by Detroit was a surprise for Whitehead

Posted Jul 6, 2012

With their first pick in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Lions selected linebacker Tahir Whitehead out of Temple.

As the 138th overall selection, Whitehead had to wait until the third and final day of the draft to hear his name called, making it a long and somewhat stressful process.

“I was anxious basically everyday,” said Whitehead. “I was talking to teams leading up to the draft, everybody was making sure they had the right numbers for me and that was just a merry-go-round, who’s going to get who and what day am I going to go.”

Leading up to the draft Whitehead said he had to make a conscious effort to sit back and relax, to take his mind off of everything.

After the combine, he spent a lot of time going to the movies, watching TV and doing pretty much anything he could keep himself from rehashing everything that teams would evaluate him on.

“I started thinking about what I thought I messed up on, or what I thought I could have done better,” he said. “I could have run my 40 faster, I was too tense when I was running and a bunch of stuff, but I had to settle myself down once again and say, ‘Look, I put in the work already, now I have to put in the waiting game and see where the chips fall.’”

When it came to the draft, Whitehead didn’t know when his name would be called, or to what team, but said he was glued to the TV from the time the draft started until he was selected.

And to ease his anxiety, he kept things low key, spending the three days with family and friends.

“I didn’t have a party, I just had a few family and friends over. Everyone in my immediate family, just to keep it simple,” he said. “I didn’t want to get everyone hyped up on Friday if I wasn’t going to go until Saturday. It was minimal.”

On day three, Whitehead’s name was finally up, as he was the third pick in the fifth round to Detroit.

For Whitehead, getting his name called was relief and surprise. With the exception of a conversation he had with linebackers coach Matt Burke, he had no idea he was even on the Lions’ draft board.

“I had no idea. The only time I spoke to coach Burke was at the combine,” he said. “I started talking to him about whether or not I run to the ball hard. I told him, ‘Yeah, I do.’ Then he said, ‘Have you ever seen Kyle Vanden Bosch? That’s how you run to the ball.’ I said, ‘Ok, watch my tape and let me know what you think.’”

He didn’t know much about the Lions' defensive system, but he was looking forward be being a part of it.

“I was excited. I had never been to Detroit; I never really watched too many games this year to really understand the scheme of what they do,” he said. “I was just ready to go and come here and work hard to earn my spot.”