Fred McLeod is returning to Detroit’s sports scene with a combination of expectations and experiences that grew from his hometown metro Cleveland roots and more than two decades as a popular television sports anchor and play-by-play voice in Detroit.
McLeod, the new play-by-play voice for the Detroit Lions’ 2019 preseason games, felt like he was in familiar territory when he mingled with the media and watched Tuesday’s minicamp practice.
McLeod spent 24 years in Detroit with Channel 2 and Channel 4 before leaving for Cleveland as play-by-play voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a position he has held since the 2006-07 season.
While in Detroit, McLeod did play-by-play of Lions’ preseason games from 1983-88 and the Detroit Pistons. Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney was in the booth with him as the analyst of Lions games.
Chris Spielman, a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, will remain in the booth as his partner.
McLeod recalled the players from his previous stint with the Lions, and he looked forward to the ones he’ll get to know on the current team.
The 1983 team won the old NFC Central title with a late-season hot streak but lost to the 49ers in the divisional playoff on a missed field goal in the final minute.
“It was fun to get immersed in training camp at Oakland University at that time,” McLeod said. “It was different brand of football. They had some really good talent, but never quite enough to get them over the top.”
McLeod has watched videos of all of the Lions’ 2018 games and likes what he sees for the future.
“There’s talent there,” he said. “I love what I saw from Kerryon Johnson. He just glides. Kenny Golladay is really impressive. Obviously, they have a franchise quarterback (Matthew Stafford).
“I thought the defense made a big upgrade after they got Snacks Harrison in a trade. I like what they did in the draft. It’s going to be fascinating what Matthew and Darrell Bevell do with the tight ends.
“I still think there’s room in this league for running the football and dominating the line of scrimmage.”
McLeod still has close ties to Metro Detroit and calls himself “an adopted Michigander.”
His wife, Beth, a TV weathercaster in Cleveland, grew up in Metro Detroit. Three of his kids were born here.
McLeod saw what it meant to Cleveland when the Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA championship to end a 52-year drought dating back to 1962 of winning a professional team championship.
The Lions’ haven’t won a championship since 1957, but the Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons have won multiple championships since then.
“I was among those crying like a baby,” McLeod said of his reaction to when the Cavs won the championship. “It’s been three years now. Everybody knows where they were, who they were with, what they were doing the night of that championship.
“I can only imagine what this town would be like if the Lions won the Super Bowl.”