Wagner connects with Detroit's blue collar mentality

Rick Wagner is getting back to his Midwestern roots by signing with the Detroit Lions.

He calls himself a "blue collar" player, and his rise from former college walk-on to one of the highest paid right tackles in the NFL is about as blue collar as they come.

A former high school tight end, Wagner walked on at the University of Wisconsin before changing positions to tackle and eventually becoming All-Big 10.

Entering the NFL, he had to sit around and hear 167 names come off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft before finally going to Baltimore with the final pick in the fifth round.

Once in Baltimore, Wagner played in the Ravens' jumbo package as a third tackle and on special teams as a rookie. He finally earned a starting role at right tackle his second season in the league.

"I'm a real quiet, laid back kind of guy," Wagner said in a conference call Friday. "And I've always had to work for everything. I was never given anything. I walked on at Wisconsin. Was drafted the last pick of the fifth round. So I had to prove myself my entire life and that doesn't stop here.

"Now I have to prove to everybody and I have to earn this contract. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to let that happen."

Wagner, 27, has started 47 of 62 games in Baltimore over the past four seasons.

Pro Football Focus ranked him as its 19th overall tackle (both left and right side) in 2016. He was graded as the eighth-best right tackle by the website.

He allowed just two sacks in 15 games protecting Joe Flacco's right side this past season. He allowed just a half sack in 2015. Wagner's given up just seven sacks in 62 career games.

Detroit ranked 21st in the NFL last season by allowing 37 sacks. They were also 30th running the ball.

Two big keys for Wagner choosing to sign with the Lions vs. his many other suitors were returning to the Midwest and reuniting with head coach Jim Caldwell, who was an assistant in Baltimore Wagner's rookie season.

"I grew up in the Midwest and I grew up watching the Lions my whole life," he said. "Just the way this city is blue collar and it really kind of connects to me."

Wagner brings experience, leadership, toughness and a blue collar mentality to a changing offensive line in Detroit.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content