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:
"Yeah, he stood out. I think that's obvious to you, me and the American people," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.