Linebacker Zack Follett tries to fight off running back DeDe Dorsey during quarterback protection drills. (Daniel Mears/The Detroit News)
Allen Park -- During his first stint as a pitch man, Zack Follett rips up a studio, threatens to beat up anybody who gets a wimpy haircut and tells folks why Lady Jane's is the best place for Lions fans to get a haircut.
If you don't? Well, you do it at your own risk.
The commercials portray Follett as aggressive, endearing, tough and enthusiastic, which is exactly what he's like in real life.
"Man, I do get a lot of publicity for someone with just 10 career tackles," the linebacker joked after signing autographs for fans after a recent practice. "Maybe it is my personality."
Maybe it is.
Follett is not your typical athlete. Consider the following:
"I will bring the beer," he tweeted.
Later that day, he was cruising Lake St. Clair with total strangers.
In fact, a train roaring along with rap music -- "The Pain Train is coming" -- greets visitors to his website, zakarianfollett.com
"He does a good job of putting himself out there," teammate and friend Jerome Felton said. "He's got that California cool and people gravitate towards that."
Follett met Lady Jane's owner Chad Johnson during an offseason event, and the two hit it off.
Johnson, with 30 stores nationwide and many circling the Detroit area, believed Follett was the perfect pitchman.
"He relates to guys," Johnson said. "He's a little bigger and a little faster than us, but he's not a lot different than you and me. He just loves to go out and have a good time. He loves sports, and he has done a great job for us."
This move isn't by accident, though.
While Follett wants to maximize his NFL career, he also wants to try his hand in marketing or media when he retires.
"Ever since I was a kid my dad taught me to be entrepreneurial," Follett said of his father, Bob. "And if you are in the NFL, it is a rare opportunity because doors open for you. I don't know how long I am going to be here, so as long as I am here I am going to make a name for myself and try to open doors for whenever football does end."
Working man's player
Follett, 23, portrays himself as the underdog blue-collar guy looking for table scraps.
A seventh-round pick by the Lions out of Cal in 2009, Follett was released and placed on the practice squad. Last season, he played mostly special teams and a handful of games.
Now, he's competing for a starting linebacker spot in what he hopes becomes a rags-to-riches story.
"I am a hard worker," he said. "I did not get here by being a top pick. I had coaches push me and play mind games with me to see if I could make it.
"I think I relate to the fans because I earned it. I have worked hard all my life. I am kind of glad I went this way because it has made me hungry in the NFL."
Follett calls himself "The Pain Train" because he plans on administering big hits this season.
He wants to make an impact on the field and help right a defense that was ranked 32nd in the league the past three seasons.
"Yeah, it does bring a lot of attention," Follett said of his nickname. "But I would not do any of this if I didn't think I could back it up. And in my eyes, to reach the elite in the NFL, you have to do something and make a name for yourself.
"I have to have that confidence. Last year, I did not have that confidence. I was like, 'Shoot. What am I doing here?' You gain that confidence. People are talking about you and it makes you work that much harder."
By the numbers
7 -- Projected starters for Week 1 (at Chicago) drafted the last two years
28 -- Players signed as free agents or claimed off waivers after the 53-man cut last year
1971 -- The last time the Lions had a winning season after losing their opener
The Lions had one 300-yard passing performance, two 100-yard rushers and four 100-yard receiving games in 2009. How those numbers translate in victories in the NFL:
Follett is receptive to a lot of marketing ideas, but first he's ...
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