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Kenny Golladay took the scenic route to the Lions

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The path Kenny Golladay took to being the Detroit Lions’ third-round draft choice Friday night wasn’t exactly a typical one.

The 6-foot-4 receiver from Northern Illinois was hardly a blue-chip prospect coming out of St. Rita High School in Chicago, garnering no Division I offers and choosing to play for North Dakota of the Football Championship Subdivision.

But it was when the coaching staff at North Dakota was fired following Golladay’s sophomore year that things really got interesting. He wanted to keep playing and he wanted to make it to the NFL, so he realized going somewhere else was probably in his best interest.

So Golladay got to work, becoming his own public-relations department by creating his a highlight tape and securing the help of his former high school coach to get it in front of college coaches.

It paid off with an offer from Northern Illinois. After sitting out a season, he became one of the top receivers in the Mid-American Conference in 2015 and 2016, which eventually led to a spot in the third round where he was taken by the Lions.

But it was that highlight film that got the ball rolling.

“I got all my film and made my own highlight tape and sent it to my coach Todd Kuska at St. Rita’s,” Golladay said. “I told him to do me a huge favor and that was to send my tape out to the college coaches that were coming in and he jumped right on it. It was just a blessing I feel like. It only took him a week, maybe two. I talked to my family and they had my back through thick and thin and I made that decision and I was blessed.

“I sat out that 2014 season and then the 2015 season I hit the ground running.”

Golladay earned second-team All-MAC honors as a junior and was first-team in 2016, catching 87 passes for 1,156 yards. He finished his two years at Northern Illinois with 18 touchdown catches.

Not bad for a kid that drew hardly any attention from college coaches coming out of high school.

“I was really just a guy who fell under the radar, really,” Golladay said. “I didn’t get any (Division I) offers, to be honest, out of high school. I got one offer and that was North Dakota. I just had that drive to play football and I’ve been playing all my life. Even though I’m from a big city like Chicago I knew I wanted to play football so I took that path to North Dakota … Grand Forks, North Dakota, and I did what I had to do pretty much.”

He admitted it was a bit of an adjustment going from Chicago to Grand Forks.

“It was way more chill,” Golladay said. “It was much slower and it was just different. But at the same time it was a great experience.”

It led to Northern Illinois and eventually the Lions, who were intrigued early by Golladay’s size and potential to play both inside and out.

They spent time with him before and after his pro day and had him to Detroit for a visit. A few months later, Golladay is now contemplating the chance to learn a new offense and play with Matthew Stafford.

“I know Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback and I’m looking to learn more about the offense,” Golladay said. “I’m not too familiar with it but I’m definitely ready to learn.”

And it all came about because of Golladay’s willingness to head to North Dakota and his drive to create his own highlight tape. He said he didn’t keep the tape but knows how important it was to where his is today.

“I might have made an extra copy and gave it to my mom but I did not keep it,” he said of the original video. “Once I knew I was leaving North Dakota I kind of erased that and focused on NIU and set myself up for success.”