Detroit Lions TE Darren Fells uses his athleticism in NFL after years as pro basketball player

Five things to know about Fells

ALLEN PARK >> Funny, Darren Fells doesn’t feel like he’s 31 years old.

There’s a good reason for that. The Detroit Lions tight end has only been playing in the NFL since 2013. So his body is not beat up like you might expect from a 31-year-old tight end.

“It’s a lot of fun for me to come in here and try to do things to turn people’s heads that his old man can still do a few things,’’ Fells said on Wednesday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Fells didn’t play football in high school — instead focusing on basketball. That led to a scholarship in basketball at UC Irvine.

After playing professional basketball from 2008-2012 in Belgium, Finland, France, Mexico and Argentina, he decided to give the NFL a try.

He’s in his first season with the Lions after he spent 2014 through 2016 with the Arizona Cardinals.

“In basketball the biggest beating you take is a lot of jumping on your knees here and there. I wasn’t the most explosive guy so I didn’t take that much beating on my knees,’’ Fells said. “It’s drastically different (than football).’’

Five things to know about Fells:

1. He had his best game with the Lions in the win at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday when he had four catches that were all first-down conversions. Fans started to notice No. 87.

2. On those catches he started out blocking, then got open for Matthew Stafford to find him. “It’s definitely a huge weapon especially since I’m seen as a blocking tight end first, they’re not going to really respect me in that aspect,’’ Fells said. “It helps me get open a lot more, I don’t have the speed (Eric) Ebron has to get open.’’

3. When the Lions signed him as a free agent they saw more than a blocking tight end in the 6-foot-7 Fells. “That was the first thing they actually said to me is they were surprised I wasn’t doing more as a receiving tight end, especially being 6-7,’’ Fells said. The Lions felt with his basketball background that he could go up for a pass like he did for rebounds.

4. The Lions started working with him in OTAS and training camp testing out different routes. Obviously he passed the test.

5. Stafford has been happy with the play of Fells along with Ebron and rookie tight end Mike Roberts. “ think our guys did a nice job, and you’re going to see it in the pass game and the stats and stuff, but I think they did a really nice job on the run game too. We asked them to block the defensive ends one-on-one a lot of times in the run game and in the pass game, and they did a heck of a job, so hats off to all three of those guys for pulling their weight in the run game, and then getting some big conversions from Fells early, Ebron had a couple nice plays and obviously the one to Mike Roberts was a big one as well,’’ Stafford said.

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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