By Will Burchfield
Toward the end of the Lions’ final organized team activity on Thursday afternoon, undrafted rookie tight end Cole Wick streaked down the middle of the field and hauled in a 25-yard pass from Matthew Stafford. As Wick tumbled to the grass, maintaining possession the whole way, his teammates on the sideline jumped up and down and hollered their approval.
Wick’s tight end counterpart, Eric Ebron, was the loudest of them all.
“Yea boy, hell yea!!” shouted Ebron, marching onto the field to show Wick some love. “That’s what I’m talking about!”
Wick, with the ball still in his hands, high-fived Ebron and then jogged back toward the line of scrimmage, searching for someone to throw the ball to. He looked this way and that, the rookie unsure of protocol, uncertain of where he stood after the day’s most impressive offensive play.
“Throw it to anyone!” Ebron yelled, a wide smile on his face. “You caught it! Throw that thing wherever you want!!”
So Wick hurled the ball back from where it came, then put his head down and readied himself for the next play.
Afterward, Ebron explained his excitement in watching Wick make his mark.
“It’s fun watching somebody else grow up, man. This is my third year so watching a rookie come in and play your position, it’s just fun to watch him grow up into who he is now. Maybe two weeks ago he probably wouldn’t have made that catch, but he’s built his confidence and now he’s out here making plays,” said Ebron.
Wicks success in OTA’s was hardly limited to his final catch on Thursday afternoon. From the start of team activities on May 24, his teammates and coaches said, Wick continued to make a positive impression. With the tight end position wide open behind Ebron, the Incarnate Word-product is off to a strong start in his quest to make the Lions’ final roster.
“He’s got length,” Jim Caldwell said of Wick, who’s listed at 6-6, 254 pounds. “He’s working extremely hard. He’s learning but he’s getting better and he does have some pretty distinct qualities that he’s been able to look pretty good out here without any pads on. You got to wait until the pads come on. We’ll see.”
Caldwell is right to be cautious. The game of football is founded on physicality, and OTAs are strictly non-contact.
“When a guy is catching the ball and he’s running through the middle and he knows he’s not going to get hit, he acts a little bit differently,” Caldwell added. “When the leather starts flying a little bit then you kind of get a little better picture of what you really have.”
Still, the picture so far is quite promising: Wick, feet off the ground, arms extended, snatching a pass out of the air.