Ron Bartell is a native Detroiter who believes in the city

Posted May 14, 2013

Cornerback Ron Bartell, who signed with the Lions in December, provides a veteran - and local - presence within the locker room

Ron BartellRon Bartell helped with Living For The City's clean-up event.

Ron Bartell Jr.'s career bio shows that he's been a man on the move since graduating from Renaissance High School on Detroit's west side. His football travels have taken him as far west as Oakland, Calif., and as far east as Washington D.C.

From the Black Hole of Raiders Nation to our nation's capital, with stops in between, gave him exposure to a range of cultures.

Bartell played college football at Central Michigan and Howard University in D.C. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the second round in 2005, signed with the Raiders as a free agent in 2013 and signed with the Lions last December one week after the Raiders had released him.

Bartell's travels represent the ability and determination he has shown as he approaches his ninth pro season while playing cornerback, one of the most hazardous positions in the game.

There could be one entry in Bartell's log that indicates the commitment he has for his hometown city. It could read: "Never left Detroit."

"I wear a Detroit hat everywhere I go," Bartell said. "This is part of the uniform. I've always loved the city. I'm just happy to be back.

"I've been gone, but I've still been here."

Bartell is undertaking a business proposition in Detroit. He has bought property on Livernois, just south of Eight Mile Rd. Livernois is regaining its long-ago distinction as The Avenue of Fashion, with a number of upscale apparel shops, restaurants and other businesses on the northwest side of Detroit.

Yes, there are parts of Detroit that have more than a faint pulse, and Bartell is investing in what he sees as a healthy present and an even stronger future.

"Right now, we're talking about a sit-down restaurant," Bartell said Tuesday of his plans for the properties. "The other properties we're talking about developing, getting good leases. It creates jobs and a synergy in the area."

He does not have a pollyanna approach regarding Detroit's problems. Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr's statements this week's about the city's dire financial position did not make him flinch. He understood those before Orr took his EMF position.

"It doesn't depress me," he said. "That's the reality of the situation. Nobody's going to come in to save us. It's a reality check. There are certain measures that need to be taken. It was once a great city, and it still has great people."

Bartell was part of a group of Lions players and staff members who took part in a beautification program on Livernois Tuesday, just across from Bartell's pending business project. It was in partnership with Eastern Market, Goodwill Industries, Clean Downtown Detroit initiative and Hatch Detroit.

Bartell grew up in the area near West Outer Drive and Greenfield. He was a star athlete at Renaissance High. He remembers tours of Detroit as a youngster that left a lasting imprint on him.

"I'm deeply rooted in Detroit," he said. "I know all about it. We have great neighborhoods – Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest, Green Acres – places that I used to wish I could afford to live in."

Ron Bartell and Herman MooreBartell and Herman Moore.

Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest and Green Acres are separate neighborhoods that are bounded by Seven Mile on the south, Eight Mile on the North, Woodward Ave. on the East and Livernois on the west. South of Seven Mile are such areas as the University and Golf Club subdivisions.

Residents of those areas are fiercely loyal, with active neighborhood groups that have kept the area viable and attractive.

"My father and I used to drive through those streets," Bartell said. "It's a beautiful area. We're trying to bring some commerce to the city, bring some jobs. But you have to have places for people to walk to. Hopefully, I can play a small part in that."

Bartell turned 31 in February. He's not ready to call it a career in football. He did not sign with the Lions in December just to grease his way into life after football.

He spent seven seasons with the Rams (2005-2011) and was a full-time starter for four of them, until an injury limited him to one game in 2011. He played seven games for the Raiders in 2012 before being released. The Lions signed him, and he started the only game he played as a Lion.

The Lions signed him back for 2013 on a one-year contract. Bartell is 6-1, 208 pounds, and Coach Jim Schwartz has said often that he considers his size an asset. So is his experience.

Bartell got to the Rams when they were on the downside of a great run that made them one of the NFL's exciting teams. The 1999 Rams won the Super Bowl with an offense known as "The Greatest Show on Turf." The 2001 Rams lost the Super Bowl.

Bartell shared a lockerroom with such stars as Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.

"You're talking about Hall of Fame guys," Bartell said. "I learned a lot -- just how to carry yourself. You have to be respectful of the game. Those guys took me under their wing and showed me what it's like to be a pro – how to take care of your body and be responsible."

He is one of the elders in a Lions' secondary that has rookie Darius Slay, a second-round draft pick, and three players who were drafted last year – Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green.

Bartell is more than willing to impart whatever wisdom he can on players who are just beginning their journey as pros.

"Guys are curious about how to stay in the league, how to last a long time," Bartell said. "The average career is two and a half, three years. It's not even a career. It's an experience."

Bartell said he is fortunate to have made good money in football, and even more fortunate to have hung on to it so he can provide for his wife, Esme, and their three kids – Jaedyn, Emir and Noah.

"I prepare for life after football," he said. "I'm not through playing. I've tried to tell the young guys, the day you walk into that locker room is the day that they're trying to get rid of you.

"Prepare yourself."