Is Stephen Tulloch the Most Undervalued Member of the Detroit Lions?


Detroit Lions middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is 30-years-old and is past the prime of his NFL career, but the nine-year league veteran may be more valuable than ever before.

For the first time in a long time, the Detroit Lions defense regained relevance in 2014. It also marked the first year ever that linebacker Stephen Tulloch missed a game in his nearly decade long NFL career. In the third game of the season against the division rival Green Bay Packers, Tulloch tore his ACL while celebrating a sack on Aaron Rodgers.

I was probably off to the best start of my career, to be honest with you” – Stephen Tulloch

The injury not only sidelined Tulloch for the remainder of the year, but also sparked speculation that Detroit may cut him loose after his fill-in, Tahir Whitehead played considerably well in his absence.

Luckily, that was not the case.

The Detroit Lions decided to keep Tulloch around because he brings something to the table that Whitehead cannot. Something that is far more valuable than the little bit of money Detroit would have saved by going with Whitehead — leadership.

Leadership is an extremely undervalued trait to posses in the world of sports. All great teams, possess great leaders. Look at this years Cleveland Cavaliers for example.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James has had arguably his most impressive post season to date in 2015 and the Cavs now find themselves on their way to the NBA finals despite injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

And the reason is LeBron.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “LeBron is the greatest player of his generation, if not all-time.” And you’re absolutely right, but it goes beyond his play on the court.

James and the Cavs beat the early season favorite Chicago Bulls despite falling down two games to one in the series, and they did this while Love was out, Kyrie was at about 50 percent, and James was shooting less-than stellar. They ended up winning the series because James lead his team.

When James was missing baskets, he didn’t go to the bench and sulk like James Harden. He rallied his team, spent one-on-one time coaching them, and took over the huddles.

LeBron is a leader, and so is Stephen Tulloch — just ask Golden Tate.

"“At the end of the day, he keeps our locker room together,” Tate said following OTA’s on Wednesday. “Even when he wasn’t playing … he was keeping us together, setting up events for us to hang out. I know last year a few times we would go up to Lucky Strike or a bowling alley because he set up something up for us to watch the game and just build camaraderie.“He helps this locker room stick together, and we gel because of what he does in the locker room,” Tate continued, “so I hope he’s not going anywhere any time soon.”"

Tulloch’s off-the-field actions also support Tate’s comments.

For the seventh year in a row, Stephen Tulloch has organized his annual celebrity softball game in Detroit. The charity event is set for June 5, and benefits underprivileged children and Detroit public schools.

That’s what leaders are made of. It’s not something you learn, it’s something you’re born with. When athletes break into professional sports in their early twenties, the ones that possess maturity and leadership skills flourish. The few that don’t but somehow manage to learn and grow up, don’t usually do so until they’re 30 — and out of their prime.

You’re not born an introvert, and become an extrovert. At least in most cases.

That’s what makes leaders so valuable. What the Lions defense has with Tulloch is a leader, and a great one at that. He may not be the fastest guy on the field anymore, but he is still an invaluable asset to a team with a ton of promise.

I have more respect for Stephen Tulloch than any other member of the Detroit Lions organization, and I’m thrilled that he will be with the team in 2015.

For continued Detroit Lions news, rumors and analysis, be sure to give SideLion Report editor and columnist Nate Williams a follow on twitter at @SLR_Nate as well as on Facebook at Nate Williams.