When I took the job as a SideLion Report staff writer , I was pretty excited. I was pretty busy and had a lot going on in my life, like…ummm, well, ok, maybe I didn’t have a lot going on. But I figured I could write some articles on the Lions, have debates with fans who didn’t agree with my viewpoint; maybe someday write an article so brilliant and insightful that it leads to a Lions Super Bowl victory AND to world peace. I never thought I would get a chance to meet Ndamukong Suh.
As has been reported previously, Mr. Suh was doing a promotion for Subway restaurants in downtown Detroit. I was invited to attend thanks to the graciousness of my editor and the lucky coincidence of a vacation day that had already been planned. I headed to downtown, camera in hand. When I knocked on the Subway door, a gentleman answered. When I informed him that I was there for the Suh media event, he told that there was no media event. Feeling totally foolish I turned away, only to find out that apparently other sports writers have a funny sense of humor and they like messing with the newbies. In retrospect the panic attack he caused me was quite funny.
After the panic had subsided I entered with my notebook in hand and my little Sony camera in its case. Only to realize that my handy little camera was dwarfed in size by the professional tv crews and newspaper cameras. And apparently my itouch is not an acceptable substitute for a voice recorder.
So now, having felt panicked, foolish, and inadequate (I was reliving high school all over again), I sat down to wait for Mr. Suh.
He arrived on time, but we spent a few minutes waiting as he was multi-tasking by doing an interview while sitting in his car outside of the restaurant. He then carried in a big basket of avocados, doing a few arm raises “as a second workout of the day”. Upon entering the Subway he made a few subs with Subway’s new avocado spread and then did some interviews while eating one of his Subway creations. I had the chance to ask him if he had done any free agent recruiting during his trips throughout the US – specifically “any corners from Oakland”. He stated that he had had no conversations with a corner from Oakland, but that he had talked to Antonio Cromartie. Well spoken and thoughtful, I had a hard time reconciling the quiet, un-assuming man sitting in front of me calmly discussing good health and wellness habits for children with the same man who tried to rip Tom Brady in half. Other then the fact that he is built like an Abrams tank he could have been any professional colleague I deal with in the automotive industry.
I was also impressed with the overall professionalism, from the way he carried himself to the way his day seemed very structured, with interviews leading to photo ops leading to other interviews afterwards. Every response to an interview question was measured and thought out – I don’t believe that he will ever be one of those athletes that shoot their mouth off in a fit of post-game rage. So when he says that he feels the Lions can go 16-0, he understands what he is saying.. He also reiterated that the only goals that matter for him are team goals, not individual ones. My favorite answer to a question was when a reporter asked if he was looking forward to the Monday night game. His response was that there were a lot of football games to be played before the Monday night game, and they needed to win those ones first. I loved the answer, as it showed his mental approach to the season and his game-by-game attitude.
It will be interesting to see how his second year plays out. With the year he had last year, the expected leap in production between the first and second year, and new first round draft pick Nick Fairley thrown into the rotation to provide a few more breathers, the expectations will be pretty high. I am guessing anything less then 12 sacks and the playoffs would leave bitter taste in his mouth. If he is as dedicated in the weight room and practice field as he appears to be (and I don’t doubt that he is) then I think those are totally obtainable goals.
In between the interviews the fan in me couldn’t resist asking to have my picture taken with him. Suh seemed to take it in stride and even laughed a little when I told him that I was going to try to look mean. As you can see from the picture I failed miserably.
At the end of the day he finished his sandwich and headed over to Comerica Park to take in a Tiger’s game, full from his Subway sandwich but still ready to chomp on some quarterbacks in the future.