MIKE O'HARA

O’HARA: David Cutcliffe reinforces Lions’ opinion of Tomlinson

Posted May 9, 2015

The text message Jim Caldwell got from Duke’s head coach David Cutcliffe reinforced the personal qualities the Lions had seen in Laken Tomlinson that played a role in their decision to draft Tomlinson in the first round.

Sometimes the things a team finds out after the draft about one of its rookies might produce a case of buyer’s remorse over the decision to draft the player.

In the case of guard Laken Tomlinson of Duke, it was just the opposite for Lions head coach Jim Caldwell.

The text message Caldwell got from David Cutcliffe, Duke’s head coach since 2007, reinforced the personal qualities the Lions had seen in Tomlinson that played a role in their decision to draft Tomlinson in the first round.

Laken TomlinsonG Laken Tomlinson (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Tomlinson was drafted to play left guard in the continued rebuilding project of the offensive line, and Caldwell already had a high opinion of Tomlinson’s character – in addition to his ability – before getting Cutcliffe’s message a few hours after Tomlinson was drafted a week ago.

“He said he’s the kind of person you can build a program around,” Caldwell said Friday after the opening practice of the three-day rookie minicamp. “He said he creates job security for coaches – something of that nature.

“That kind of shows you what he (Cutcliffe) would have thought of him. He would have a better feel for him than I would. For me to give you an assessment, we’ve got to go down the road a ways. I do think he has all the makings of being exactly what we anticipated and expected him to be.

“He’s a smart guy. He appears to be a real good teammate. That’s what he’s been at Duke. He was just an outstanding individual – a great leader.”

Tomlinson was Duke’s starting right guard for four years and never played left guard until this year’s Senior Bowl, where Tomlinson said he divided his time “50-50” between left and right guard.

“It’s actually real exciting,” Tomlinson said of changing positions. “I feel pretty comfortable.”

Tomlinson was asked what goals he set for himself in the rookie minicamp.

“Show people what I can do on the field,” he said. “Go out there and be a leader among our group of guys.”

Caldwell was quick to say that full evaluations cannot be made on linemen until they put on the pads. As he spoke to the media after practice while wearing his jersey, Tomlinson lived up to one draft analyst’s comment that he has shoulders “as wide as a refrigerator.” At a little over 6-3 and 323 pounds, Tomlinson is powerfully built, particularly in his upper body.

Tomlinson obviously was drafted to be a starter, but he isn’t taking that for granted and said the coaches have not told him that he will start.

“I’m just happy to get an opportunity to go out on the field and do something,” he said. “If the coaches give me the opportunity to play, I’m going to go out there and play.”