Jason Cabinda was a two-way football star growing up in New Jersey as a running back and linebacker. In fact, Cabinda was second-team all-state during his senior season at Hunterdon Central High School, where he still holds the school record with 50 career touchdowns.
When he got to college at Penn State, Cabinda transitioned solely to linebacker, where he excelled and became an NFL prospect. He's played linebacker in Oakland and Detroit professionally the last two seasons.
But late last season in Detroit, injuries forced the Lions into a need at fullback, and Cabinda filled in, doing a pretty good job. So good, in fact, the Lions have moved the third-year pro to fullback full time in 2020.
"I was able to take some reps last year during the season when Nick (Bawden) went down," Cabinda said last week. "In terms of the conversations (this offseason to a full-time switch to offense), I've always been a team-first kind of guy. Whatever the team needs. That's kind of the type of dude I've always been. I'm really just in a position that wherever I'm needed, I'll do."
Whatever the team needs means a little more as the team begins their final week before roster cuts Saturday. The team placed Bawden on the injured reserve list Monday morning with an undisclosed injury. That leaves Cabinda as the only fullback on the roster, and certainly gives him a terrific opportunity to play an important role in Detroit's backfield this season if the Lions keep a fullback on the initial roster.
Cabinda (6-1, 235) fits the mold of a fullback. He's got size and speed, and doesn't mind contact. We've seen this kind of move work out before when the Lions transitioned linebacker Nick Bellore to fullback a couple seasons ago.
"You kind of just have your guy and go hit him," Cabinda said of the transition to fullback. "Do what you got to do. It's a gritty position, no doubt about that. You have to be in the trenches and go out there and block and make holes and make some catches in the flat and kind of make plays when you can."
It's been an exciting transition for Cabinda, and it's been more natural than he first thought it would be, though he admits the route running and receiving part of the job has taken the most adjusting to since he hasn't done it since high school.
"Offense is fun," Cabinda said. "It's fun to score touchdowns. It's fun to make plays. It's fun to have the ball in your hands. I'm excited, you know, whatever touches I get, I'm going to make the most out of them, that's what I know.
"I'll definitely have something cooked up for you all when the time comes (to score), for sure."