Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Lions fans ecstatic after Detroit trades up to draft Terrion Arnold at No. 24 overall

April 26, 2024
A fan celebrates the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit, rooting for the Lions. Photo courtesy of Aleesa Lueckers of Spartan Sports Report.
A fan celebrates the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit, rooting for the Lions. Photo courtesy of Aleesa Lueckers of Spartan Sports Report.

"Brad Holmes! Brad Holmes! Brad Holmes!"

Whenever an NFL general manager's name gets shouted in unison by a contingent of their team's fanbase in the heart of downtown, they’re doing something right.

In Detroit on Thursday night, the reaction to the hometown Lions trading up five spots to take Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold at No. 24 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft was nothing short of euphoric. For the 30 or so Lions fans standing at the corner of Woodward Avenue and State Street, it warranted a chanting of Holmes' name. 

"Brad Holmes deserves a statue," Andrew Yost, a 21-year-old Lions fan, said moments after the selection was made. 

It was widely known that Holmes and Detroit's front office were in search of a young, long-term cornerback after inconsistency in the secondary plagued them at times last season. The Lions also lost defensive backs C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Cam Sutton this offseason. Arnold, a 21-year-old Tallahassee native, was regarded as the second-best cornerback in the draft pool behind Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell, who was picked No. 22 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. 

After the first 14 picks Thursday night were all used on offensive players, a number of defensive prospects – Arnold included – fell further down the board than most expected. Holmes identified the opportunity to trade up and seized it, securing a player who fans have seemingly already bought into. 

"I like the Alabama guys because you know they'll be ready coming in," Colton Leziak said, a resident of the Detroit suburbs for over a decade. "We needed a corner so bad. I'm so happy right now."

Arnold was a key piece on a stout Alabama defense this past college football season, intercepting five passes in 14 games en route to earning a first-team All-American Honors position. Unlike the other 31 players drafted Thursday night, Arnold's name was called in the place he'll call home for years to come. 

"Detroit, y'all got a star, man," Arnold shouted on stage toward the One Pride faithful. "I'm home, man, I'm home. These fans gonna be crazy, man."

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The NFL Draft display in Detroit was bursting at the seams all of Thursday. During the day, fans packed the NFL Draft Experience at Hart Plaza. Then, as nightfall approached, they gathered at Campus Martius Park to watch the first round unfold. Before the clock even hit 7:00 p.m., the NFL OnePass app sent out a message declaring that general admission had been paused due to the event reaching its max capacity. 

The crowd's excitement bubbled over as the draft's introduction began and familiar faces in Motown like quarterback Jared Goff, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson appeared at center stage. They were joined by Detroit legends and Hall-of-Fame inductees Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson. 

"This is maybe the best experience I’'e had here," Julian Mendoza said, a Traverse City resident and longtime Detroit sports fan. "Detroit is nuts right now."

Detroit has struck gold with many of its draft picks in the past three offseasons, with players like Sam LaPorta, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Brian Branch, Kerby Joseph and James Houston all coming in either days two or three. Its five first-round picks in that time span include franchise players Penei Sewell and Aidan Hutchinson, as well as day-one producers Jahmyr Gibbs, Jack Campbell and Jameson Williams. 

That trend continued Thursday night. 

"We're on fire. The Lions are on fire," said Dan Westinghouse, a Lions fan of 43 years. "We're coming for it all next year."

Detroit fans certainly have a lot to look forward to after narrowly losing to San Francisco in the NFC Championship game. The Lions resigned a good amount of their young role players while acquiring starting talent, such as cornerback Carlton Davis Jr., through free agency. They posted the third-most total yards of any NFL offense and only suffered one major loss to that side – guard Jonah Jackson in free agency. 

Having never reached a Super Bowl, there is growing hope in Detroit that 2025 is when the Lions make history. 

"I'm (going to) help them win a Super Bowl," Arnold said on stage, prompting an ear-splitting roar from the crowd. "Listen to that!"

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