Oklahoma connection merely a coincidence for Lions in draft

DETROIT — If the Lions wanted to move training camp to Norman, Okla., this fall, they’d draw quite a crowd.

Of the eight players the Lions selected in this year’s draft, three played college football at Oklahoma: Wide receiver Ryan Broyles went in the second round, defensive end Ronnell Lewis in the fourth and linebacker Travis Lewis in the seventh.

It’s believed to be the first time the Lions have taken three players from one school in the same draft since 1958.

Of course, they made 32 picks then and talent was far more concentrated in college football. They drafted South Carolina teammates Buddy Nidiffer, Frank Destino and Jack Pitt that year; none ever appeared in a game for the Lions. And Lions coach Jim Schwartz said this year’s Sooner pipeline was purely coincidental.

“We don’t rate them higher because they’re from Oklahoma, but it just worked out that way,” Schwartz said. “We’re excited to have them all. They’ve had a good program, and those guys have been very productive over the years.”

Schwartz said more than one scout played a hand in evaluating Ronnell Lewis, Travis Lewis and Broyles. Regional scout Silas McKinnie was responsible for much of the legwork, and director of college scouting Scott McEwen and assistant director Lance Newmark also paid visits.

Lions linebackers coach Matt Burke also attended the Sooners’ pro day.

“We might even have had more,” Schwartz said. “We had it covered, but no more than Nebraska or Oklahoma State, who are right in the same neighborhood. That’s pretty standard operation for just about all the schools we do.”

Even so, Broyles and the Lewises, who aren’t related, got a kick out of being taken by the same NFL team. A fourth Sooner, safety Sam Proctor, was invited to the Lions’ rookie minicamp May 11-13.

“I’m just glad they saw something in us OU players to draft us,” Travis Lewis said.

And what might that have been?

“Just people that come to work every day,” Lewis said. “Hard workers, people with great work ethic and that love the game of football.”

Both Broyles and Travis Lewis were four-year starters and among some of the most productive players in the nation during their Oklahoma careers.

Lewis led the Sooners in tackles each of the last four seasons, but struggled some as a senior playing through a broken toe. He projects to play outside linebacker for the Lions and will have to earn a job on special teams.

“Football nowadays, it’s not about stats. Sometimes it’s all about how fast you run and how high you jump,” Lewis said. “I was just happy that they saw something in me, and I’m going to prove them right and I’m going to prove a lot of teams wrong.”

Broyles set the NCAA record for receptions before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in November. He was considered one of the best slot receivers and punt returners in the draft, but the Lions still surprised many when they took him instead of defensive help in the second round.

“There’s all kinds of profiles and things that you look for in players, but the No. 1 thing that you look for in a player is what he does on tape and the production he has in college,” Schwartz said. “And Ryan is unparalleled in those areas.”

Like Travis Lewis and Broyles, Ronnell Lewis’ biggest impact as a rookie could come on special teams. Because of the depth up front, Lewis will be hard-pressed to crack the Lions’ defensive-line rotation, but general manager Martin Mayhew said he should play on both cover and return teams.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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