AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — As the Detroit Lions ended their mandatory minicamp, some veterans sprinted off the field and toward the locker room to begin a long break before training camp.
Detroit’s drafted rookies were not in a rush. They’re not going anywhere soon.
Senior director of player development Galen Duncan gathered first-round pick Eric Ebron and the team’s other selections from this year’s draft after practice Thursday for a few minutes.
Ebron said Duncan reminded them that they are spending the next week in town before going to the NFL rookie symposium. The tight end recalls Duncan telling him and his teammates to make good choices off the field “every single day.”
“Even though you should be a man and do the right things yourself, it is not bad to have those kinds of reminders,” Ebron said. “Galen is a great dude.”
The 42-year-old Duncan is in his eighth year with the Lions. His job is about to be put to a test as it is annually this time of year because players have more than a month off between minicamp and training camp, but he’s not worried about having a lot of headaches.
“This is usually a tense time for me,” he said. “But I am as at ease — and I’m going to knock on wood — as I have ever been here. I can’t imagine being the age of our players with the amount of money and time that they have, and all the attention that they garnish. As Biggie Smalls said, ‘More money, more problems.’ But no one on the team wants to be ‘that guy,’ because we’ve got an awesome locker room.”
Duncan, the only person listed in the team’s player development department, played basketball at and graduated from Lake Superior State. He went on to earn a masters’ degree in social work from Wayne State and has a doctorate in health and ports psychology from Walden University.
Duncan said the NFL began hiring people like him to help players off the field about 20 years ago, and coach Jim Caldwell has worked alongside some of Duncan’s peers with the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens.
“Across the board every team has a guy like him, but I think he’s pretty special,” Caldwell said.
The players do, too.
When they walk off the field or out of the locker room, Duncan is there.
If they’re bowling with teammates, he is probably at the alley as well.
“Galen is a jack of all trades with his hands in every cookie jar,” second-year tight end Joseph Fauria said. “Whether you want tickets to a Tigers game or whether you get in trouble off the field — not that I have — or need help getting your passport, he’s always there for you. He’s so important, especially for the rookies.”
“You can’t have the high cost for low living — that’s Caldwell’s line — and we’re all trying to stay out of trouble. Galen helps us get educated about making the right choices.”
Duncan said his ultimate goals are to help the team win a Super Bowl and to assist players as they strive to be successful on and off the field.
“My job is to be seen as a mentor,” he said. “I need them to be comfortable with me, to talk to me about anything, because my job is to help them. I can’t be a snitch. I’m not required to report everything that goes on with every player unless the behavior is going to hurt them or the team or if it is going to get exposed anyway.”
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