Allen Park — How did Lions linebacker Nick Bellore wind up getting some snaps at fullback this week against the Carolina Panthers? Well, it might have had something to do with a joke.
Bellore, a key special teamer in addition to backup linebacker, volunteered to be a blocking back. Even though he’d never done it in a game, his pitch centered around some of his other teams exploring the possibility in the past. The kicker is he told a member of the coaching staff he had played some running back when he played at Central Michigan.
“I think I told one of the coaches I played running back in college, just messing with him, but I hadn’t,” Bellore said. “That might have gotten me in the door.”
Whether the coach believed Bellore or not is unclear, but the team gave him some practice reps on offense and liked what they saw enough that they brought him into Sunday’s game in three key situations.
On his first rep, a successful third-and-1 conversion, Bellore went through the hole ahead of running back Zach Zenner, and perfectly executed a block on Luke Kuechly, one of the NFL’s best defensive players. On Bellore’s second rep, he helped create the lane for Zenner on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Not a bad debut.
Blocking certainly isn’t a foreign concept to Bellore, who gets plenty of work doing it on kick and punt returns, but he drew more from his linebacker experience when working in the backfield.
“You’re basically mirroring the linebacker position, but blocking instead of tackling,” he said. “There’s a lot I have to learn, but initially, that’s the main thing that’s helped me with the transition.”
His biggest struggles playing offense came before the snap. Bellore joked about not knowing where to stand in the huddle and the difficulty of processing quarterback Matthew Stafford’s cadence on the snap count.
Again, he turned to his defensive instincts and just stared at the ball waiting for it to move.
“I always get a little bit nervous because they go fast on offense and you have to be locked into what’s going on,” Bellore said.
As imperfect as the process was, Bellore showed promise in the role and has likely earned more reps in the future.