meet the cubs: louis delmas

>> 5.27.2009

When Tom Kowalski told the world that he thought the Lions might draft a safety, USC's Taylor Mays, with the #1 overall pick, I laughed. When he suggested that the Lions might draft a local boy, Western Michigan's Louis Delmas, with the #33 overall pick, I pooh-poohed it. When he insisted that what the Lions defense--statistically, one of the worst ever assembled--needed was a playmaking two-way safety, I scoffed. Given how the Lions' front four were shredded to tatters by every running back they faced, given how awful the Lions' corners were at containing wideouts, and given how impotent the Lions' defense was on third down, how could they invest so much in a player lined up too deep to solve any of those problems?

Kowalski explained it like this:

"I understand that a great safety on a horse crap defense isn't going to get you very far, But that's one of the pieces of the puzzle: if you can get that guy who can blitz, who can play the run, who can play short zones, who can play centerfield."

Okay, I thought at the time, a Reed or a Polamalu is one of the pieces of the puzzle--but shouldn't that be one of the last pieces of the puzzle put in place? It seems to make no sense; the Lions are supposed to be building a defense from the trenches out, right? Why start with the last line of defense?

And yet, when the first pick in the second round was called, the Lions owned the rights to Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas. At just a hair over 5'-11", and just a hair under 200 pounds, Delmas possesses typical--not prototypical, typical--NFL safety size, combined with prototypical speed (4.53), and extraordinary playmaking instincts.

Hailing from North Miami Beach, in high school Delmas played all defensive back positions, wide receiver, kick returner, and long snapper (!). His senior year, there was an 8-game stretch where he never left the field. Still, neither Scout nor Rivals ranked him with any stars, and Western was the only DI scholarship offer Delmas had. Why? Well, Delmas has an extraordinary past I won't retell here. Simply read this jaw-dropping article by GrenadierSports.com, and return here. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Speechless, eh? Yeah, so am I.

So once in Kalamazoo (official bio), Delmas immediately made an impact. As a true freshman, Delmas started all 11 games, earning him second-team Freshman All-America honors. He racked up 82 tackles (54 solo), 4 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions, eight pass breakups, and 11 passes defended. Let me begin that sentence again: "As a true freshman,". WMU's official site is a little hazy on individual season totals after that, but suffice to say his production only increased from there, becoming captain, handling kick returns, and making play after play after play. Let's go to the tape:

Sports Videos, News, Blogs
What we see here is exactly as Killer described: a two-way, playmaking safety.  He flies upfield and lights up ballcarriers, he can man up on a receiver (he played a little corner at Western, too), he can play centerfield and haul in interceptions.   In these clips, we see him take down a ballcarrier almost every conceivable way.  He hits them high, he hits them low, he wraps them up and brings them down.  He's sudden and explosive, and frequently looks like the best athlete on the field.  Of course, this is the MAC--he won't be the best athlete on the field in the NFL.  Still, this footage "pops".
In the controversial ESPN TV series "Playmakers", there was a scene where the veteran running back is watching as a rookie RB--a first-round pick--during a scrimmage.  Over a montage of runs by the young tailback, we hear the voice of the veteran.  He says something close to (sorry, don't have the video to reference): "You can see it.  It's not a movement--it's a way of moving.  Greatness."  That's the exact vibe I get when I see these clips of Delmas.  It's not any one thing that I see--its seeing him cover ground in a breath, fly right to the ball like it has its own gravity, slice right past his own teammates to stop ball carriers in their tracks.
It's funny, because I've always thought of a safety as a guy who cleans up messes; the last line of defense.  Sure, guys like Brian Dawkins and Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu can come up with big open-field hits or key interceptions, but isn't that really just the cherry on top?  I'm starting to wonder if I had it all wrong.  In watching these Western clips, you can see how Delmas would blow past his own men to come up and stuff the run.  You can see how he'd read the quarterbacks eyes, cut in front of an opposing receiver--currently being covered by another Bronco--and make the interception.  Then of course, there's the classic tale of Bob Sanders and the 2006 Colts: when he was healthy, their defense allowed less than 75 yards rushing per game--and without him, they allowed over 100 yards rushing every single game.  That's right, the Colts were by far the worst rushing defense in the NFL during the 2006 regular season--when Sanders only played the first four games--yet were the second-best rushing defense in the playoffs, when he was healthy.  One player, a safety, a 5'-8"-on-a-tall-day-safety, singlehandedly turned one of the worst rushing defenses into one of the best.
What do you think, Lions fans--should we add a similar player to our defense?
Heh, it's okay.  The boos will become cheers soon enough.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and there has already been some eating going on down in Allen Park.  Jim Schwartz on whether or not Delmas stood out at the rookie-only minicamp:
"Yeah, he stood out. I think that's obvious to you, me and the American people," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
If you click on and read that excellent article (thanks to Tom Kowalski at mlive.com), you'll see how Delmas is already taking the reigns, standing out, chattering, leading, involving his teammates, and winning them over.  One of several college team captains the Lions drafted, I believe Delmas is the most gifted natural leader.  If Foote and Peterson and Jackson are the veteran leadership Band-Aids, then Delmas is the guy who will be the leader of this defense for the next ten years.  Morever, if he's even 3/4ths of the players he's been compared to (Reed, Polamalu, Sanders, Sean Taylor), he'll be the greatest Lions safety since Bennie Blades--and a far more complete player than Blades was.  I really, truly believe the Lions hit a home run with this pick, and I think we'll know right away if I'm right.

7 comments:

scott May 28, 2009 at 6:09 PM  

Forget the Church of Schwartz....this is the Church of Ty.
PREACH BROTHER!!!!!!!!!

I've been saying since a couple hrs after we picked Delmas and I had the chance to do the research. This guy has all the tools of a hall of famer. I'll be on me knee's every sunday praying to the Lord he doesn't get hurt. I think that's the only thing that can de-rail this train. Did I mention I'm slightly high on the guy?

GO LIONS!!!

Anonymous,  May 28, 2009 at 7:24 PM  

The Detroit Lions are the only team in NFL history to ever have both the Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year in the same year, 1967, with Lem Barney and Mel Farr. Could this year be the repeat? If Stafford somehow leads us to the playoffs, god forbid past the first round, and Delmas plays half as well as it seems he is destined to, it my just happen

Ty May 28, 2009 at 11:06 PM  

scott--

Thank you sir; and so I shall. If you've been reading for a while, though, you'll know that Reverend Spielman of the Church of Schwartz reads this blog--and I'm a member of the Church's weekly roundtable, The Lions Congregation.

I was a little skeptical at first, too, but the more I've read, the more I've been absolutely convinced that he's 100% for real.

Peace
Ty

Ty May 28, 2009 at 11:06 PM  

scott--

oh and GO LIONS!!

Peace
Ty

Ty May 29, 2009 at 10:07 AM  

Anon--

That is a fantastic little piece of trivia there, my friend. I'm trying to find some sort of symbolic proof that it's destined to be so . . . hmm, that's 42 years ago, and as we all know, 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything! There. It's absolutely fated to happen. Thanks again for that little nugget, Anon.

Peace
Ty

Anonymous,  June 9, 2009 at 3:41 AM  

I love Delmas allready! Believe that he is going to be a great Safety! Ilove safeties and was one myself a long long time ago.And no I never even went to college.But,Anyway I loved Bennie Blades and went out and got his Jersey that i have never gotten signed by him,But,have a lot of LIONS signatures on and plan to have what I believe to be the next great Safety sign it!
Louis Delmas!
GO LOUIS!
GO LIONS!

Ty June 9, 2009 at 2:58 PM  

I loved Bennie Blades, too, but Blades was a John Lynch-style "extra linebacker", delivering incredible hits. I don't think Delmas will drop fools quite like that--though he certainly will hit--but I do think he'll be a more complete player than Blades was, more of a playmaker, a better defender in the passing game.

Peace
Ty

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