How one camp changed Eric Ebron's football career

Posted May 9, 2014

Eric Ebron played basketball for a time, but football eventually found its way back into his life.

Eric Ebron played defensive tackle in pop warner football growing up, but when his grandfather died when he was just 10 years old, he lost interest for a time.

“I kind of lost touch when my grandfather passed away,” Ebron said Friday during his introductory press conference in Allen Park. “Pretty much lost touch on life. Then my mom told me that I wasn’t going to sit on the couch my whole life so I had to do something. Now I am here doing something.”

Ebron comes from a family of basketball players. His father, Eric Ebron Sr., played basketball in the Marine Corps and at King University, and his older brother Jamee, is a professional basketball player in the country of Georgia.

Ebron played basketball for a time, but football would eventually find its way back into his life.

It wasn’t until the summer before his junior season in high school that the younger Ebron would fall in love with the game all over again.

Ebron was in the midst of transferring high schools and Rodney Brewington, the football coach at Smith High School in North Carolina, saw Ebron’s 6-foot-4 frame and inquired about him potentially playing football.

“When I got into high school I didn’t play my freshman or sophomore year," Ebron said. "He came in and said that I just look like a football player, and I said, ‘Man, I used to play football.’ ‘He was like, well you need to play football.’

"He took me to a one-day camp at North Carolina and he was like, ‘You look like you have collegiate talent, so let’s see.’

Ebron started drills with the high school kids and ended up running routes and catching passes from the college quarterbacks.

“It was pouring down rain,” he said remembering back to that day. “I went out there with no gloves, no swag, looking like I never played football before, but I ran nice routes and caught everything in the rain. They were just like, ‘Man, that dude there? We want him?’ I was just like, ‘Thanks.’ That was (then head coach) Butch (Davis).”

“I walked out of (North) Carolina in one day with a scholarship to go there and I had never played high school football before. My story just took off from there.”

At the time, Ebron said he didn’t even know what a scholarship was.

“He (Davis) said I had received a scholarship, and I said, ‘Thank you.’ I didn’t know what that was,” Ebron said.

“My head coach came flying out of nowhere, ‘Boy, you got a scholarship? Do you know what that means? You get to go to school for free.’ Cool, I get to go back to school for free, that means a lot. We just figured it out from there and now I’m here, man. My journey, it was fun.”

It’s a journey that placed him behind a podium and answering questions as the Detroit Lions’ No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft Friday afternoon. He's been playing football for just the last five seasons, and the Lions think he’ll be a key part of their offense alongside names like Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Golden Tate and Matthew Stafford.

“It’s only something that you can dream of,” Ebron said. “For them to actually put something together like this, it’s mind-blowing. It’s really going to help me help this organization and this team by opening up Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush and Golden Tate, Brandon Pettigrew. It will be incredible, the things that we can do here in these next few months to couple years.”

All possible because of an immensely talented athlete, one college day camp and a high school coach’s intuition.