The long-awaited debut of HBO “Hard Knocks” featuring the Detroit Lions hit our screens on Tuesday night. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if some brick walls no longer stood after Lions fans ran through them.
From Dan Campbell’s desire to drag teams into the deep water and Aidan Hutchinson’s journey to Jamaal Williams’ passionate speech and the experience (and brotherhood) of the coaching staff, fans got a chance to see the men in Honolulu blue and silver like never before .
Here are the top five highlights from the first episode of Hard Knocks.
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Aidan Hutchinson moonwalks into spotlight
We have to start with the rookie bully song of the year, brought to us by Aidan Hutchinson.
The No. 2 overall pick out of Michigan football and Dearborn Divine Child for a sudden superstar with his rendition of a classic.
Like his breaking news when he had to get up in front of the team in the meeting room and perform “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. He wasn’t even five seconds into the song when he realized he messed up, shyly walks away and is booed by the whole room.
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He did it in a big way, performing an entertaining rendition of the song, getting the whole team to sing and clap as he danced his way across the room.
The culture of Dan Campbell
Campbell walks into the team’s main meeting room at the beginning of the episode and sets the tone for the season with his four rules: don’t be late, don’t be overweight, don’t disrespect teammates or the game.
Outside of that, he said, anything goes. He leans into the fact that the Lions weren’t good last year – and haven’t been for a while. Campbell discussed what his team will need to do to become one that is a hole and not a punchline.
“What are we? What makes us what we are?,” he asked. “I think it’s right there, it’s gritty … it’s our core foundation. What does it mean? In short I think it means this: we’re going to go a little bit longer, we’re going to push a little bit longer, we’re going to think . a little deeper and a little sharper.”
To further his point, Campbell uses the ocean as a metaphor.
“There are some teams that barely get to the water, you have to get to the water to compete,” he said. “Some teams that’s all they get. Then there are some teams that they’re in the shallows and they’re all over your ass … they hit and they move and they’re dangerous.
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“All you have to do is catch them, but if you catch them, you start dragging them to the deep dark abyss, you can drown them. And that’s what we have to be. That’s who we have to be. Because that’s our domain . Because we will tread water for as long as it takes to bury you. Because we can, because we choose.”
Whatever Campbell wants his staff and players to be themselves too. That’s why Jamaal Williams is free to be as mean as he likes and why he told linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard not to cut his hair.
“It’s a trickle-down effect to be honest with you,” Sheppard said of Campbell’s genuine nature. “I was thinking about cutting my hair to be honest with you. Dan was one of the first people to say ‘absolutely not’.”
“I’m hiring Shep,” Campbell said. “I’m not hiring the guy you think should fill that position.”
More about Hutch
The episode touches on Hutchinson’s relationship with his family, such as when Jared Goff introduced himself to Hutchinson’s father, Chris, at the practice facility and said he did a good job.
“Don’t be too nice to him now,” Chris joked.
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Or earlier in the episode, when Hutchinson is sitting around a table with his siblings at what appears to be his parents’ house in Plymouth.
“If he doesn’t get drafted by the Lions, I’m going to cry on camera,” said his mother, Melissa. “Everyone will think I’m so happy he’s gone somewhere else, but no, that would be because I’m so depressed he’s not home.”
They discuss his signature eye black look streaked down one side of his face, to which he says he might need to change it because he’s afraid it will mess up that side of his face.
He can’t, says one sister. “It’s part of the brand.”
From losing multiple fights to Penei Sewell on the first day of pads, to getting put on his backside by a cinder block by TJ Hockenson, not everything Hutchinson did in the episode was perfect.
Jamaal Williams’ plea to teammates
At the end of the first day of pads, Williams is tasked with breaking down the team group.
He starts by talking about how day one was the minimum effort and the team needs to give more. Normally an easy-going guy on the team — he’s constantly dancing on the sidebar, joking and talking about anime — his tone changes.
“When you think you’re tired, think about last year and think about that (expletive) record,” he said. “Every time I think I get tired or I think I can’t go anymore, I think about that (expletive) record. That’s not us! We can do it!… Have some heart. I get emotional about this, I am about to cry, because I care about you all.
“Last year wasn’t. Last year made me angry, angry because of this year. I’m trying to be better for all of you… Remember your why, remember why you play football. I want you all to give everything. you everyone has every day. Do your best!”
Aaron Glenn vs. Duce Staley
One of the most entertaining parts of the entire show (and all over camp for that matter) was the relationship between defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and assistant head coach/medical coach Duce Staley.
Staley speaks in front of his team and tells them that they have to be about three things to succeed: Grit, dream and love.
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He then tells them that it’s good for men to tell each other they love each other because it means you care about them. The focus immediately turns to him and Glenn.
“I love you,” Staley begins. “I want to (expletive) you between those white lines, but I love you.”
That’s pretty much the relationship between the two. Glenn calls Staley “his guy” and one of his “closest friends. Staley says of Glenn, ‘that’s my dog.’
And like brothers, the rivalry appears on the field. The two are constantly biting each other, about how Glenn’s defense can’t stop Staley’s offense and vice versa.
“You want it, we’ll give it to you,” Glenn said.
“We’re gonna take it, you ain’t gonna give us an (expletive), we’re gonna take it,” Staley chirps back.
“We’ll give you anything you want,” Glenn shouts.
Every time the respective coach’s unit does something well, he lets the other one know, like when rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez made a big splash in the backfield.
“Oh, you stopped screen? I’m glad for you,” Staley said after Glenn got in his face. “I didn’t even know you were here.”
Then, perhaps the highlight of the two interactions, came after the offense hit a deep pass to Tom Kennedy.
“You forgot to tell them we’re playing today!,” Staley shouts.
“You hit one play,” Glenn replies. “And now you want to (expletive) talk.”
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