'Like Thor': Lions grab a hammer in S Miles Killebrew

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Miles Killebrew

Allen Park — Miles Killebrew was about to head to graduation at Southern Utah on Saturday when he received a phone call.

With the 111th overall pick in the fourth round, the Lions took the big, hard-hitting safety, and in Killebrew’s teleconference, he expressed pure joy.

“Hey, I’m a part of the Detroit Lions!” he said. “I get to go into work every day as a Detroit Lion! And it’s just going to keep getting better with time. I can’t wait.”

But before excitement took over, Killebrew admitted he was shocked the Lions chose him. At the Senior Bowl in January, Lions safeties coach Alan Williams told him the team wasn’t that interested in him. Killebrew found out Saturday afternoon that Williams was just trying to gauge his reaction.

So, before going to receive his degree in engineering, Killebrew had a surprise team make his dream come true.

“I’m still kind of geeking out about it a little bit here in the car,” he said.

Killebrew wreaked havoc in the FCS the past few years, including an impressive senior season with 132 tackles and two blocked kicks in 2015. As a junior, he displayed an all-around game with 101 tackles, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.

“I tell you what: I would much rather be the hammer than the nail,” he said. “And I love it. I love it. It’s football, and in its purest sense, football is a collision sport. And as long as I’m doing it safely and legally, I enjoy it.”

Killebrew hits so hard that NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein described him as a “tightly-bundled muscle hammer with a compact frame and the thighs of a track sprinter.”

“I guess like Thor or something,” Killebrew said of the description. “I don’t know what that means, but I’ll take it.”

Killebrew is 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds and should provide immediate competition for the strong safety position. Besides Glover Quin playing free safety, the Lions’ plans at the position are largely unclear. They signed Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson in free agency, but Bush played just one game due to a torn pectoral muscle last year while Wilson is primarily a special teams player.

The Lions also have safeties Don Carey and Isaiah Johnson on the roster, and with Isa Abdul-Quddus going to Miami and James Ihedigbo not returning, the team needed to find another player who could contribute at strong safety.

Killebrew ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which is fine for a safety at his size. He impressed in the explosion drills, though, with a 38-inch vertical leap and 127-inch broad jump.

Obviously, Killebrew will have to play better than some veterans to be a starter as a rookie, but considering defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s affinity for three-safety packages, Killebrew should have multiple opportunities to contribute on defense as well as special teams.