t's become our yearly Thanksgiving tradition in Detroit to reach for our remotes, turn on the Lions game and say 'maybe this year.' Well … maybe this year is the year. Here, Detroit Lions Glover Quin and Joique Bell share their thoughts on tradition, dream teams and the football season ahead.
Detroit Lions safety Glover Quin
Distant relatives, cousins, aunties, great aunts and uncles would all arrive at his grandparents' house in Summit, Mississippi-ready for their annual tradition of food and football. Although you could say Quin has come a long way since tossing the pigskin around in grandma's yard before dinner-going pro in 2009 and signing a five-year contact worth an estimated $23.5 million with the Lions in 2013-Turkey Day is still gameday for his family. But now it's become tradition to watch him.
"It's funny because back then, I don't think they had three or four games on TV for Thanksgiving. I just remember watching the Lions play," says Quin. "I get to do the same thing now, but it's actually my job. I get paid to play football on Thanksgiving in front of the whole world."
Quin started his NFL career at 23 as the fourth-round draft pick for the Houston Texans. He beat the Lions once on Thanksgiving 2012, he explains-almost apologetically. He stayed with the team for four years before he came to Detroit with his wife and two kids.
"It was difficult at first. Not knowing a lot about the city. Not knowing about the weather and how to deal with that," he says, coming from his Southern upbringing. "(But) now that I live in Detroit and we play early, I don't have to fly 3 1/2 hours back to Houston. I can just come back home to the family. It's perfect."
He adds, "It's crazy to see how full circle it has come. … But hey, I can't complain."
Quin, 28, now in his second season with the Lions, says the best perk of playing Thanksgiving games are the fans hungry for a win.
"That hunger from the fans rubs off. And you feel it around the city," he explains. "Obviously people have different reasons they go to different teams. But to me, it was one of the things I looked at. This was a great opportunity for me to go somewhere and help change the culture. And in my second year, we are slowly trying to change from the old perception of the Detroit Lions to the new Detroit Lions."
Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell
You've probably heard the fairy-tale story that is Joique Bell's entrance into the NFL: An 18-year-old freshman and Division II football star from Wayne State University-while working security at the Lions practice facility-got some encouraging advice from a talent scout. Determined, Bell blew away expections, breaking into the league in 2010-and landing a spot on the home team in 2011.
Bell, now 28, calls it "old news." In fact, he's been planning this career since he was 8 years old.
"I made it a goal then. I still remember to this day, 20 years ago," he says, delving into his trademark nostalgic sentiments. "I was headed to a (football) jamboree on the weekend. There were different teams and we were all riding to the game together. Walking on that bus, seeing everybody in their shoulder pads and helmets-we were all going to the same place for one mission. And I told myself, 'This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'"
He pauses, with emotion, adding, "The fact I was able to make that dream a reality, it's a blessing."
Since signing to the Detroit Lions as a running back, Bell has quickly forged a reputation as a valued player, getting his contract extended an extra three years this past March. He carries a distinct sense of humbleness and appreciation for the game. As he explains, it was not long ago when he, too, watched the Lions play on Thanksgiving from his Benton Harbor hometown.
"Our whole family would meet up there. And each person in my family would bring a special dish. We have a lot of people in my family that are known for certain dishes. They would make those and bring everything there," says Bell. "We would always watch the Thursday game. The funny thing is, now that I am playing for the Lions, they watch me … yelling at the TV."
This Thanksgiving will be no different. After a few personal traditions of his own ("I talk to my mama before every game"), it's game time.
"There's going to be a lot of roller-coaster rides this season. The only thing you have to do is stay level all the way through," says Bell. "When you win, you say little. When you lose, you say even less. We have to stay level through this whole season."
As how does he explain Detroit's Lions loyalty each year? Bell says it's simple: "It's the passion of the game. Love of the game," he explains. "That's the only way I can put it."