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Wick hopes to cook up something special with Lions

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Allen Park — At one time Lions rookie tight end Cole Wick used to go by a different name: Chef Wick.

As soon as Wick graduated from Sacred Heart Catholic High in Hallettsville, Texas, his dad told him he had to get a job the next day. So Wick, who was 18 at the time, applied at a restaurant in his hometown called Benvenuto Italian Grill & Steakhouse.

He got the job and started as a dishwasher. Then two weeks later, Wick was promoted to chef, a position he would hold for three years.

“We made everything from scratch,” Wick said. “I enjoyed making the chicken parmesan. The weirdest order I had, though, that I kind of enjoyed was rare steak. The guy wanted me to go throw it on 10 seconds, flip it, 10 seconds.

“It was awful. I never seen anything before in my life like that.”

Wick said he didn’t have any prior culinary experience prior to the job, just cooking tips and tricks he picked up from his mom. But he had a mentor who helped show him the ropes around the kitchen.

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While he liked walking around in his white chef’s coat and cooking steaks, he doesn’t miss working from 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. every day except for Mondays.

“I enjoyed being a chef,” said Wick. “I just hated the hours honestly. You know, (football is) almost the same thing but I don’t feel like I’m working here.”

The Italian restaurant closed in 2014 after the owner died and Wick hopes his cooking days are behind him after joining the Lions as an undrafted free agent out of the University of the Incarnate Word.

Much like his food, Wick received good reviews after an impressive showing in organized team activities and mini-camp in the spring, where he spent a good chunk of time getting first-team reps.

Through the first week of training camp, though, Wick hasn’t stood out much as he has bounced around and spent time doing drills with the first, second and third teams.

“I feel like I’ve been able to play pretty fast. I’m just trying to still get everything down as far as what I’m doing with pads on,” Wick said. “Just trying to kind of find how I can work with pads and stuff like that on so it’s a different game. I’m just trying to stay low and block and play fast.”

Wick (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) said his focus is on his technique, timing and little details on routes, and just continuing to develop, particularly in the blocking game.

“The guys they are a little bit bigger and better at this level,” Wick said. “I was at a FCS school so I was going against not the best but there were some really good guys that I went against at Sam Houston and Central Arkansas. A couple of them are in the league now.

“Going against those guys really kind of helped me hone my skills down, but I definitely have to say the blocking is one of the more difficult things.”

Yet, Wick feels he belongs in the league. And with tight end Brandon Pettigrew still rehabbing from an ACL tear last December, Wick has an opportunity to claim a roster spot and add another job to his resume.

“I’m enjoying it. I don’t see it as work so that’s something,” Wick said. “I think about all the former jobs I’ve had and how badly I hated getting up in the morning.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in that (restaurant) business. I’ve moved on.”