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Sewell on contract extension: 'To be where I am right now is surreal to me'

Penei Sewell has come a long way from his childhood days of playing football on the beach in American Samoa with a plastic water bottle filled with sand and water substituting the football.

Sewell couldn't help but think back to those simpler days Monday morning, standing behind the podium in Allen Park addressing reporters just a few days after becoming the highest paid offensive tackle in the NFL with an extension that will keep him a Detroit Lion through the 2029 season.

"No, to be honest," Sewell said of ever imagining the moment as a kid. "I just had a picture that I wanted to play in the NFL. That was always a dream of mine. But to be where I am right now is surreal to me. I don't think it's hit. I cried just like draft day when I found out."

Sewell's father, Gabriel, was a football coach in American Somoa and saw the potential of his four sons, three of whom now play in the NFL. He moved the family to Utah in 2012 and the rest is history.

"If I was still on the island, I'd probably be a farmer somewhere," Sewell said. "Just planting roots and eating what I plant and going about my day. It's a simple life out there. It's beautiful, but I always knew I wanted more.

"Thinking about all those times playing on the beach with my brothers and cousins and how far I've truly come."

In just three seasons after Holmes made Sewell the first player he ever drafted as Lions general manager, Sewell has become arguably the top tackle in football at just 23 years old. He earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl berth last season and is only the second Lions offensive lineman to be named First-Team Associated Press All-Pro since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.

Sewell's toughness, athleticism, and technique are off the charts. He's certainly a big reason why Detroit has the most yards (13,172), tied for the second most touchdowns (112) and has the third most points (914) in the NFL since 2022.

For Sewell, the last three years have been a bit of a whirlwind. It's amazing to think just how much he's grown since coming to Detroit as a 20-year-old wide-eyed rookie.

"I was talking with Penei after he got done signing his contract and I was like, 'Man, it was like three years ago you were here with your parents.' We had just drafted him and he was here with his parents," Holmes said. "And now he's got two kids running around and he just signed and he's the highest paid tackle."

The contract is a testament to all the hard work Sewell has put in the last three years to not only become a dominant player, but to also find his voice and become one of the unquestioned leaders of this football team. He and players like wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who also signed a massive contract extension last week, represent who the Lions are as organization on and off the field. They earned the contracts.

Sewell also made it clear Monday he still considers himself a player on the rise and the next order of business is helping Detroit finish what they couldn't last year in their run to the NFC Championship game.

"To win," Sewell said of the next thing on his goal chart. "We need it all. I had a conversation with (St. Brown) after we just found out we were getting the contracts and going to sign that that's our goal. It's to hoist that trophy at the end of the day and to just win.

"All those individual accolades don't mean nothing. I want the big boy and I want it now."

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