Messrs. Mayhew and Lewand--
You, gentlemen, are fully cognizant of the task you have at hand. You figuratively hold the keys to an NFL franchise, the Detroit Lions--an organization worth, perhaps, a billion dollars. You literally have hundreds of people in your employ, and many thousands of people indirectly rely on your success for their family's meal ticket. On an even broader scope, millions of people over the past seventy-five years have invested their time, emotions, and money in following and supporting your organization--season tickets, single-game tickets, club and luxury suites, parking, concessions, hats, shirts, jerseys, flags, banners, stuffed animals, etc. Of course, none of this is anything you aren't keenly aware of.
As you also know, hosting the Final Four in Detroit--with Michigan State in it to the finish line--was not only a great psychological boon to the people of Michigan, it provided a tangible economic boost to the city of Detroit. However, as many pointed out, this was fleeting; a wonderful moment in time that can be hung on a wall--but won't pay the bills. You, gentlemen, hold the power to generate that same kind of goodwill and rejuvenation on an ongoing basis. With the on- and off-field renaissance of the Detroit Lions, you can bring that celebratory atmosphere back to Ford Field from autumn through winter. You can create joy, create jobs, and create a legacy for yourselves as foremen of the rebuilding of a city.
The first overall pick of the NFL draft becomes, for good or for ill, the avatar of that franchise. For years, the success or failure of the franchise that selects first will be chained--on the field, in the ledgers, and in the mind of the public--to the success or failure of that player. In interviews and commercials, on the field and off, whomever you choose with that first overall pick will wear the first face anyone pictures, and speak with the first voice anyone hears, when people think of the Detroit Lions. This selection is absolutely crucial to your rebuilding efforts; there is no room for error.
When Jim Schwartz was introduced to the media as the new head coach of the Lions, he spoke about finding the "right person", not just the right position, to take first overall. My heart rose when I heard that, because I believe he spoke the truth. The franchise you two now control cannot afford to bind itself to the player with the best workout numbers or the most gaudy statistics--not unless that player is also committed to being as impressive in the locker room and in the community as he is on the field. Of course, you two have each personally investigated every aspect of these young men to a far deeper level than I could. Between the two of you, you've watched hours of film of these players, sat and broken bread with these players, watched them in public and private workouts, spoken with them many times . . . all I have to go on is their public faces: what their agents would like me know, and what the media have been able to find out.
That having been said, I know I speak with the voice of many, many fans when I say that Aaron Curry should be the cornerstone of the new Detroit Lions. His heart, his desire, his character, and his selflessness are all well documented. His bringing a 12-year-old leukemia patient along with him to the draft is a perfect example of what the #1 overall pick should be to this franchise, to this city, and to this state. His deferring of his NFL dream one more year, with his family facing homelessness, so that he could go back to school and ensure he'll be able to take care of that family for generations, proves that his priorities are in exactly the right place. His leading a basement-dwelling Wake Forest team to the ACC championship proves he knows exactly what it means to be the heart and soul of a resurrected football team. His once-in-a-generation combination of size, speed, agility, desire, and intelligence will immediately bolster a Lions' squad that was, just last season, arguably the worst NFL defense ever assembled.
Not long ago, the Lions' players were well known for being great leaders in the community, providers who put down roots in Detroit, and gave back to the city as much as the city had given them. As you know, Robert Porcher won the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award multiple times; Aaron Curry will surely follow in his footsteps. Look out the window, gentlemen; read the papers on days when they can afford to be printed. On the heels of the news that Michigan again leads the nation in joblessness, it would speak volumes about the class, the character, and the priorities of the Detroit Lions organization to ignore the hype. To ignore the pundits and the shellacked talking heads. To ignore the common wisdom and the conventional thinking. To forget value charts and stopwatches, "big boards" and salary slots. To yoke your franchise to the shoulders of a bold young man who will help Lions fans to their feet, on the field and off, again and again and again. To restore pride to the Lions.
To draft Aaron Curry.
Forever a fan,