Lions safety Louis Delmas, left, had to part ways with his alligator, Mojo, right. (Detroit News and Jeremiah Combs photos)
Allen Park — One day when a grade-school-aged Louis Delmas was in South Florida, he went swimming in a lake and brought home an iguana.
At least, the Lions safety thought it was an iguana.
Delmas brought the critter home and put it in the backyard, but when his brother came home, he told Delmas it was an alligator, not an iguana. Delmas said his brother killed the alligator, but his love of the ferocious beasts lived on.
So when former Lions linebacker Ernie Sims offered Delmas one of his pet alligator's eggs in Delmas' rookie season in 2009, of course he accepted.
"I put it under the lamp, and (Sims) told me that it's going to hatch in a week, and it hatched in two days," Delmas said. "I had it ever since. He's 5 now."
Sadly, Delmas had to give away Mojo a few months ago because, at 6 feet long, the alligator was too big to stay in 6-by-6-foot tank in Delmas' basement.
Now, Mojo lives at Allen Park Critter Shop and is one of the shop's most-popular displays, manager Jeremiah Combs said. Combs and Delmas said they hope to donate the animal to the Detroit Zoo, but they're not sure when that will happen.
Delmas said he used to go to the Critter Shop to pick up rats to feed Mojo, and Combs said shop owner Rick Simms would go to Delmas' house to help care for him. Simms also helped Sims care for his pets — four alligators, two pythons, a monkey and tarantulas, according to Delmas — while Sims was still with the Lions, Combs said.
In addition to the alligator, Delmas had an albino python, but that pet died a couple years ago. One day Delmas fed the snake a rat, but it was full and didn't eat right away.
"The rat basically chewed him to death," Delmas said.
Still sad about having to give up Mojo, Delmas said he might run to the pet shop Thursday for a visit. Although the alligator would snap when people went into Delmas' basement, he said Mojo recognized his scent and wasn't aggressive toward him. Delmas did, however, have to tape Mojo's mouth shut before transporting him to the store.
Lions wide receiver Kevin Ogletree has lived with Delmas since joining the team nearly a month ago, and although Mojo was already at the pet store, Ogletree made sure the creature was gone before moving in.
"I told him I couldn’t stay there with the gator there," Ogletree said. "He had to make some adjustments for the New York City kid."
Ogletree, from Queens, and Delmas met in 2006 when Delmas' Western Michigan team beat Ogletree's Virginia squad. "Real recognize real," as Delmas said, so the two stayed in touch after the game. The two also trained together in Miami before the 2009 draft and have the same agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
"If you're lucky enough to have good friends like that, a case comes up like this you don't have to scramble and start paying for hotel rooms longer than you have to," Ogletree said.
However, living with the eccentric Delmas can be challenging at times because Ogletree said, "It's hard to get him at peace," though he called Delmas a "top notch" host.
Delmas, meanwhile, wishes Mojo was still around, so he could keep his new roommate on his toes.
"He's scared of the gator. He's scared of everything that moves," Delmas said.
And if Mojo for some reason bit off Ogletree's hand, Delmas said it wouldn't be a problem.
"He's Ogletree; he'll catch with one hand," he said.