By: Will Burchfield
It wasn’t much of a question as to who deserved the game ball following the Lions’ 14-7 win over the Vikings on Sunday.
The honor belonged to Steve Longa, who took the field just three days after his father was killed in a car accident.
Longa, who was excused from practice on Friday to be with his family, rejoined the Lions in Minnesota and played an increased role in the wake of injuries to linebackers Jarrad Davis and Paul Worrilow. He made two tackles, including the first of the game for Detroit.
After the win, Haloti Ngata presented the game ball to Longa and wrapped him up in a hug in a poignant moment for the team.
Ngata lost both his parents at a young age.
“He wanted to give it to him because he understands and has gone through exactly what Steve’s going through right now,” said Caldwell. “I think for our entire team it was great to be able to give him a big hug and see him off because he went back home this morning.”
Longa’s father emigrated to Detroit from Cameroon on his own in 2002. His family joined him in Michigan in 2007, and soon moved to New Jersey. It was there that Longa learned to play football.
Caldwell said he’s seen players take the field following the death of a family member, and knows it wasn’t easy for Longa.
“He’s a courageous young man, and his father was really close to him as well. It certainly took a lot for him to go out and do what he did. He came back and wanted to play, and I thought he conducted himself appropriately. Certainly played well, and I know that his father’s proud of him as well.”
The arrangements for Longa’s father are being held this week, Caldwell said.
“It’s a difficult time for him, so our prayers go up to him and his family. He’s a strong young man, so he’ll be fine,” said Caldwell.
He has Ngata — and the rest of his teammates — to lean on.