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Detroit Central football team returns support for Lions

By Matt Schoch
The Detroit News
Members of the Detroit Central High varsity football team, along with coaches Jimmy Macon and Keith King, pose for a picture Tuesday at Lions training camp.

Allen Park — A few of the Lions standouts stopped by football practice at Detroit Central High last fall, highlighting a season that resulted in a playoff berth.

With hopes of lifting the Lions to the postseason, the Trail Blazers returned the favor on Tuesday.

Matthew Stafford, Devon Kennard and Marvin Jones Jr. visited Central last year after the franchise pitched in to fix the scoreboard and press box, and also funded two uniform sets, practice equipment for the players, and sideline technology for the coaching staff.

“We have a kinship with the organization,” Central defensive coordinator Keith King said Tuesday. “They really took care of us. They did a really nice job. They said that it cost about $100,000 what they did.”

Fifteen Central players, along with head coach Jimmie Macon and King, attended Lions training camp with their jerseys on, standing out in the crowd as young players itching to get their own season started.

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The Lions’ visit to Central, which is on Linwood Street on the city’s west side, was chronicled by the NFL during last season’s Thanksgiving Day game in Chicago.

“Our football team is a family,” Macon said in the video, with portions taped before the remodel. “We’ve got good coaches and great kids, but the rest needs work.”

The Lions teamed with Ford Motor Company and Detroit non-profit Life Remodeled for the project at Woodrow “Woody” Thomas Stadium at the Detroit Public School League campus.

After the program's fifth straight playoff berth, Central hopes its good fortune goes both ways, and the Lions can have similar success.

“I think they’re going to be pretty good this year,” Central senior running back Alexander Jones said, noting, along with wide receiver teammates Orlando Clarkston and Jus’tyz Tuggle, that Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Golladay and Jones should have strong seasons.

Central went 5-5 last season and lost to Riverview Gabriel Richard, 38-24, in a Division 7 pre-district. This season’s opener is Aug. 29 against Dearborn Heights Crestwood.

After checking out some of Lions’ practice, the Central football team hit the mini-combine near the fan entrance for a little competition.

Junior quarterback Elijah Grainger put in a great effort at the vertical jump, touching 118 inches from the ground.

After losing four players from last year’s young team, King has high hopes for the fall.

“We’re looking for bigger things from this year’s team,” he said.

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.

Elijah Grainger, a rising junior quarterback at Detroit Central, tests his vertical leap as teammates look on, and others play mini golf in the background, on Tuesday at Lions training camp.