As soon as he signed a contract with the Detroit Lions, Cornelius Lucas started hearing about LaAdrian Waddle’s story.
It was inevitable.
Waddle was an overlooked offensive tackle who went undrafted a year ago coming out of Texas Tech. All he did was become one of the NFL’s biggest surprises last season, appearing in 12 games and making eight starts.
Could Lucas follow a similar path?
He’s another mammoth offensive tackle from the Big-12 who didn’t hear his name called among the 256 players selected in this year’s NFL Draft.
Nevertheless, he’s expected to compete for the No. 4 offensive tackle job as a rookie with the Lions. At the very least, he should make the team’s practice squad to give him some time to develop.
The Lions seriously believe they could have another sleeper, much like Waddle.
"I heard about his story over and over again," Lucas said of Waddle. "I would love to have the same story, possibly even do it better."
Part of the reason for the Lions’ interest in both Lucas (6-foot-9, 328 pounds) and Waddle (6-6, 321) is their size. They are the team’s two biggest offensive tackles.
Waddle will have to beat out five-year veteran Corey Hilliard, who is coming off an injury-plagued season, for the starting right-tackle spot.
Lucas is going to compete with converted tight end Michael Williams, a seventh-round draft pick last year, and others for a back-up role on the 53-man roster.
"He’s got a great upside because of his length and size," coach Jim Caldwell said of Lucas. "He’s a smart guy, he’s a willing worker.
"He’s really one of those guys that over the years you’re going to see some development, and positive development."
So why wasn’t he drafted?
Lucas was projected at one point as a possible mid-round pick, but he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot about two weeks before the NFL Combine.
Surgery was followed by a two-month recovery period, during which most college players were taking part in individual workouts to try to enhance their resume for the draft.
"I feel like teams were questioning how healthy I was at the time," Lucas said.
I would love to have the same story, possibly even do it better.
Cornelius Lucas on LaAdrian Waddle
His height makes pad-level — getting low enough for the necessary leverage in making blocks effectively — a potential issue in the NFL.
The Lions didn’t end up using a draft pick on him, but it apparently was a consideration.
Lucas said he received about six or seven free-agent offers, but he felt somewhat of a loyalty to Detroit.
Bobby Johnson, the Lions’ assistant offensive-line coach, stayed in contact with Lucas during the draft, starting in the fourth round.
"They showed the most interest," Lucas said. "It wasn’t like some last-minute deal."
Within about 15 minutes after the draft, Lucas had reached an agreement with the Lions.
Still, at the time, it was a consolation prize at best.
Watching the last few rounds of the draft was incredibly frustrating for Lucas. He was a little shook up by not getting picked.
Chip on his shoulder?
"I would have to say that it’s more like a bolder because of how much I prepared and how much I wanted to be drafted," Lucas said. "That’s something I think about every morning, every night. That’s just going to fuel me."