Hazel Park’s Barwin seeks ways to help Detroit

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin has plans beyond Thursday’s game against the Lions when he returns to Detroit.

A Hazel Park native who graduated from U-D Jesuit, Barwin will stay in the area for the weekend and will visit a couple of projects run by Dan Gilbert on Friday as Barwin looks for ways to help the city in which he grew up.

For Barwin, 29, returning to Detroit now is different than what he remembers. Although he’s excited about some of the ongoing rebuilding projects, he admits some of places he remembers fondly are now eerily quiet.

“I think there’s a lot to be excited about, obviously, in Detroit, a lot of really interesting things happening,” he said. “But it’s still a little strange for me when I go back just to see sometimes some parts of the city how kind of quiet it is when you walk around.”

Barwin said he noticed the quiet when he was home this offseason and visited the site of the former Saint Rita Catholic School between State Fair and Seven Mile on Detroit’s east side, where he used to play basketball.

With that in mind, Barwin said he hopes to move his foundation — Make the World Better — to Detroit one day. The foundation is currently working on building its second park in South Philadelphia and searching for its next project, but Barwin said MTWB will be more active in Detroit once he finds the right partners or projects.

Thursday’s game will be Barwin’s second Thanksgiving contest at Ford Field. He remembers the other one fondly because he was on a Texans team that won in overtime in 2012 in part due to former Lions coach Jim Schwartz challenging a touchdown that would’ve been overturned on the automatic review.

In his third season with the Eagles, Barwin has 32 tackles, 31/2 sacks and four passes defensed, and coach Chip Kelly said Tuesday it was important to add Barwin in 2013 as the team switched to a 3-4.

“He’s always been a very unique rusher because he’s got a pretty wide range, a repertoire that’s extremely effective,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He can rush inside, outside on you. He’s got length, he knocks down a lot of passes. He can create problems for you, and he’s versatile.”

And even though Barwin expressed a desire in helping his hometown, he had no interest in committing to one day playing for the Lions.

“The plan is to play the rest of my career in Philadelphia, but if that doesn’t happen, we’ll figure that out when I get there,” he said.