Monday night at Ford Field, approximately 1,500 season ticket holders were given the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Detroit Lions during a “meet and greet” on the field.
For those in attendance, it was a unique experience where they got to chat with players and have their pictures taken.
Also addressing the season ticketholders in attendance was Head Coach Jim Schwartz.
“It’s great to see everybody here,” said Schwartz. “I’m glad that you guys are here to be able to meet a lot of these guys. You see them on TV, maybe you get an autograph sometime, but anytime you get to know these guys, (you should know) these guys are going to be here for awhile. We plan on finishing what we started.”
One thing Schwartz made sure to compliment the fans on was their ability to make noise.
“We didn’t sell out all our games last year,” he said, “but there were a couple times this was the loudest stadium in the National Football League and we need that to be an advantage for us.”
There were both new and veteran season ticketholders in attendance and all enjoyed the personal interaction with the players and coaches.
“We’ve been a season ticket holder for about 10 years and this was a great event,” said Lisa and Rick Asaro from Chesterfield.
“It’s great that so many players are here and they’re taking the time to shake everybody’s hand. It was great to meet the players and they really talk to you, it was just awesome.”
One season ticket holder in particular stood out among the rest.
Eighty-seven-year old Willie Stone has been watching the Lions since 1948 and has been a season ticket holder for 62 years.
“I’m the oldest living season ticket holder,” said Stone. “I think this event is fantastic. I try to make it to all of the events when I’m around, but knowing Bob Raymond and knowing Tom Lewand and Dan Sylvester, they’re good people that are taking care of us. I feel honored to watch the Lions.”
It wasn’t just the fans who enjoyed the event. Players, including veteran tackle
“This is the first time that we’ve come out in the spring and had a chance to show our appreciation towards our season ticket holders,” said Backus. “It’s a good deal for us to come down here and return some of our thanks to them and our appreciation for their support.”
For newly-acquired cornerback
“We did a little bit of this Atlanta, but being down here, a lot of the fans have accepted me and say that they’re expecting a lot of great things from me,” said Houston. “That’s very positive and gives me a positive light going into the season.
“To reach out to the fans is great because they don’t really know us off of the field. They see us from the stands, but they don’t really get to reach out to us. It’s great to have them come out and mingle with us. These fans have accepted me and I’m just ready to give back to them.”
Following the meet-and-greet session, select players and coaches took part in a Q&A session with Detroit Lions radio play-by-play announcer Dan Miller, who emceed the event.
Fans were able to submit their questions on topics ranging from the draft to the upcoming season.
“I’ve been a season ticket holder for about 15 years,” said John Markovski. “This was a good event because we can interact with players and see what’s going on and see what they’re planning on doing in the draft. There have been a lot of good changes moving forward and it’s definitely promising.”
Highlights from the Q&A session include a physical update from Stafford, their take on newest-teammate Tony Scheffler and fun topics like how far Stafford can throw the football and the nickname Burleson would like to be addressed by while in Detroit.
Q: How are you feeling physically?
Stafford: “I’m feeling good. My shoulder feels 100-percent, no worries on that. My knee’s getting there. I’m able to drop back and throw at this point, which is the most important thing. So it’s feeling good and I’m excited about the offseason; getting a bunch of guys in and getting that chance to work together.”
Q: What will Tony Scheffler bring to the team?
Stafford: “It just gives us a lot of options with our personnel packages. We’re going to be able to do a lot of two-tight end and match-up Pettigrew and Tony on safeties and linebackers, which is a great match-up for us. Obviously I haven’t played with him before, but I’ve watched him and I’m really excited about adding him to our team. It just opens up space for everybody when you get another weapon like that that can stretch the field and make plays.”
Burleson: “I’m a firm believer in: the more weapons you have, the easier it is to win the war. I mean, it’s an all-out battle on gameday and if we can pull out as many guns as we can and start blasting away, eventually we’re going to make some damage. That’s what I think. With the tools that we’re putting together, we’re going to be very special on offense.”
Q: How far can you throw?
Stafford: “I don’t know. Probably anywhere between 75 and 80 yards, something like that.”
Burleson: “Time-out, time-out. The question is not how far he can throw, (it’s) how hard he can throw. I’ve heard about it and I was like, ‘You know what? I’ve caught some pretty hard balls in my lifetime.’ Then coming out the first couple days of passing with this guy, I realized that I’ve got to get some extra padding in my gloves.”
Q: Closing remarks?
Burleson: “I do have one question before I get off the stage. I know that Megatron is the nickname for Calvin. Then we’ve got Jumbotron. I just want to – by applause, what do you guys think about this, I’ve been mulling this over a little bit. How about, for Nate Burleson, ‘Recepticon?’”