Lomas Brown's first step on the playing field as an official member of the Detroit Lions could not have been more different than the way he ended his career.
It was a long journey from Day One to retirement, covering 263 games in 18 seasons with five teams from the 1985 season through 2002 as one of the best offensive left tackles of his era.
His first step in the journey was when he walked onto the field at the old Pontiac Silverdome during a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills that could not have meant less to anyone except him.
The last step was as a member of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as winners of Super Bowl XXXVII.
One step at a time, Brown has vivid memories of games, teammates, opponents and personal experiences that he collected in a career of protecting his quarterback's blind side from the NFL's best pass rushers.
Take the start. The Lions drafted him sixth overall in 1985 out of Florida, and he had a holdout in training camp, as was customary in those days before the rookie wage scale set the value of contracts.
Brown signed a long-term contract in time to attend the first preseason game. He walked onto the Silverdome field during the first half and was introduced to the crowd as he stood on the sideline with his new Lions teammates.
"I remember that like it was yesterday," Brown says now. "I was wearing an olive green suit. I thought I was real sharp. I remember being nervous. There were a lot of people there, jammed in, with the first-round pick being introduced to the crowd."
Brown, who played high school football in Miami and was a four-year player at Florida, had never been to Detroit. ln fact, he says he never talked to a member of the Lions' franchise before draft day.
The first time he heard his name called in connection with the Lions was a couple picks before then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced on draft day that he'd been taken by the Lions.
"It was a complete surprise that I was coming to Detroit," Brown said. "Everything was a whirl."
Brown, who turned 57 on March 30, took to the Detroit community. He has lived here since his rookie season.
He is involved in a number of activities and has been the color analyst for Lions games for WJR-760-AM.
Most recently, he was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Brown was a green rookie, but he didn't act or play like one. Once the introductions and interviews were over on his first day with the team he settled quickly into the football routine at training camp, which then was held at Oakland University.
As the Lions would learn, he was a natural pass protector. He did not require a lengthy break-in period to show that he belonged in the NFL.
Brown started at left tackle on opening day to begin an 11-season career with the Lions in which he established himself as one of the greatest offensive linemen in franchise history. Brown made six of his seven Pro Bowls as a Lion and was first-team All-Pro once.
The 1995 season was his last in Detroit. He hit the free-agent merry-go-round, playing three seasons in Arizona, one in Cleveland, two with the Giants and a final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden signed him early in the season to be a backup on the offensive line, and to provide leadership for the young players.
Brown found an irony in winning a Super Bowl with the Bucs. It was two years after he was on the losing side of the Super Bowl to the Ravens as a member of the Giants.
The year he won a Super Bowl was the only season he wasn't a starter.
"It was almost like the crowning touch of an 18-year career -- that I was able to go out with the Super Bowl," he said. "I always question the manner in which I won it. I lost it as a starter (with the Giants), and won one as a reserve. There's always that conflict with me.
"I started for 17 years – 17 out of 18 years. The one year I didn't start was the year I won the Super Bowl. I think about the irony of how things worked out for me.
"Those are two things, how I look at the beginning of my career and how I ended it."
Brown feels the same way about his Super Bowl championship as veteran Lions kicker and former teammate Eddie Murray does in winning the Super Bowl with the 1993 Cowboys.
"I'm with Eddie," he says. "I wish we could have got that one with Detroit."
He almost played another year. He'd been contacted by the Steelers to play for them in 2003. He gave it serious consideration until he felt he couldn't compete the way he wanted to – as a starter.
"I woke up with my senses," is how he puts it.
Brown kept close tabs on the Lions after retirement as a player. As an analyst alongside play-by-play voice Dan Miller, Brown reacts to plays – good and bad -- almost like a player as he does his job. His emotions run hot, and they're on display.
"I find myself with almost like a knee-jerk reaction," he said. "I get excited about it. When you've played the game, you like to see good football.
"I'll tell you who got me excited last year was Darrell Bevell (the Lions' offensive coordinator), with some of the play designs, and some of the plays he called."