DETROIT MEET NFL DRAFT. NFL DRAFT MEET DETROIT.
“The roots are so deeply woven to the NFL in Detroit,” explains CBS Football Analyst and former Pittsburgh Steeler, Charles Davis. “So they know what authentic is and so they know how to get this right.”
He’s talking, of course, about the fact that in 2024 Detroit will be the 13th city to hold the NFL Draft. He speaks with us before he takes the stage at Campus Martius Park in the heart of downtown Detroit alongside notable speakers like Detroit Lions Principal Owner, Sheila Ford Hamp, and NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, to MC a party welcoming the draft to the City of Detroit.
As we speak with Davis backstage, he continues to tell us what his past experiences at the NFL Draft have been like.
“There are a lot of visitors.” A lot is an understatement. In 2019, Nashville had the 89th NFL draft and welcomed over 600k die-hard football fans. “These aren’t local fans. So you’ll see jerseys from all over in the crowd. Even if Detroit is playing Indianapolis, you’ll see jerseys from all over in the crowd. People come in from everywhere for something like this.”
This is what makes Detroit winning the 2024 NFL Draft such a big deal. The event has the ability to bring in not only so much visiting revenue (estimated at over $200 million), but along with it a major spotlight that has the ability to show the rest of the world just how far Detroit has come in the last decade. It is also another win for the Midwest, as Cleveland was able to show the world what it was made of last year when they held the draft in their city.
We caught up with Sheila Ford Hamp after she spoke to the audience of football fans to ask her where she was when she heard the news about Detroit getting the draft.
“I was actually at a league meeting in Florida with the other owners and everyone was extremely excited when they heard the news. The owners who have been through this before told me what a great thing it was for their cities.”
The Lions owner was quick to tell us that it wasn’t a simple grab to get the draft to her city and that Detroit wouldn’t be left alone making this happen.
“The NFL works hard for this and will help us put on a great show in our city. Getting the draft to Detroit was a team effort. It wasn’t just our team, it was Mark Hollis and the mayor and so many other people. I am absolutely thrilled by all the help and support.”
The work behind the scenes to get the draft was lengthy. Detroit beat out Green Bay and Washington for the chance to hold the draft. This means that Detroit is going to be able to put their own unique stamp on the event, leaving people with a lasting memory of what the city is really like.
“For the last few years, we’ve been on a mission to secure the NFL Draft for the City of Detroit,” said Ford Hamp.
“OUR PITCH TO THE LEAGUE CENTERED ON OUR MULTIGENERATIONAL FAN BASE AND THE DEDICATION AND LOVE OUR FANS HAVE FOR THE LIONS, THE NFL, AND THE GAME OF FOOTBALL.”
As we wait for the party to get started in the park, we continue speaking with Charles Davis and he tells us more about what he’s most excited to see during the draft.
“What I’ve always liked seeing since we started moving [the draft] around, is the camaraderie involved. Usually when you see people coming in wearing colors of the rival team there is always teasing and some of it can get… tough. I have never really seen tough stuff during the draft. I see much more of a sense that we are all in it together.”
Later during the party, as live music and cheers from excited football fans roar in the background, we run into Lions veterans Jason Hanson and Lomas Brown and ask them what Detroit becoming the 13th state to hold the draft means to them.
“IT’S A GREAT REWARD FOR THE FANS. THEY DESERVE THIS,” EXPLAINS HANSON.
“We have amazing football fans here that deserve the exposure too. The team may have underperformed for a lot of years but our fans still consistantly show up to cheer us on. This draft will be about them.”
Lomas agrees, “Hands down. What our fans have been doing over the last thirty years, bringing so much love and energy every single Sunday. We have some of the best fans in the NFL.”
Lomas recounts his own experience with the draft saying, “I had never been to the Midwest. I grew up in Florida so I didn’t know much about Detroit when they drafted me, but when I got here the people here made me feel so comfortable. That’s really important for a player that gets drafted and is coming to a city that he doesn’t know. Feeling like he has a home is important and Detroit did that for me and they still do that all these years later.”
The NFL Draft is about hope. A sentiment that was echoed in all the speeches during the day’s event, as well as in the Woodward Original short film, A Boy Dreams, that was played live for the outdoor audience. It is hope for the city, hope for the fans, and most importantly, hope for young players who have reached what might be the most significant moment of their budding careers.
This feeling of hopefulness is palpable during the day’s event as the City of Detroit and its inexorable community of football fans prepare themselves for their moment on the global stage.