Alumni anomalies: Lions’ collegiate past a mixed bag

By Matt Schoch
The Detroit News

Allen Park – Nineteen of the 90 players in training camp for the Lions on Thursday played at Southeastern Conference schools, the most of any college conference, with 18 coming from the Big Ten.

Heading the Lions’ list are a quartet of players apiece from Florida, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Kenny Golladay is one of three players from Northern Illinois on the Lions' roster.

It all makes sense so far: High-quality football, often stylistically intertwined with what the Lions are trying to build, maybe with a dash of geographic bias in the Big Ten’s case.

But what about farther down the list, where some strange alumnus anomalies appear?

Sure, Matthew Stafford leads a trio of former Georgia players. But joining the Bulldogs with three players apiece are Fresno State and Northern Illinois – not exactly programs at the tip of local fans’ tongues.

Micah St. Andrew, an undrafted offensive guard, said he was excited to be joining Charles Washington, his former Fresno State teammate, along with fellow alumnus Kenny Wiggins in Detroit.

“Chuck and Kenny have really helped me out in this transition, it’s just a blessing,” St. Andrew said. “I knew they were here. It made me even more excited to get started, at least to find some people who know where you’re coming from.”

When Iowa alum Andrew Donnal saw on draft night that he could be lining up at offensive tackle next to rookie tight end TJ Hockenson, the Hawkeyes' pride swelled for him.

“It’s always awesome to see fellow Hawks, we all watch each other and know who each other are, watching games and stuff,” said Donnal, whose Iowa connection continues with new defensive tackle Mike Daniels and undrafted tackle Matt Nelson. “It’s a community and we’re all brothers.”

Three players on a single NFL team is a lot for Northern Illinois, but the Huskies also have two potential starters who could see a lot of each other across the line in practice: Cornerback Rashaan Melvin and wide receiver Kenny Golladay, along with wideout Tommylee Lewis.

With six, there’s more Football Championship Subdivision players than players from the Big 12, which has just three Lions – Quandre Diggs of Texas, Danny Amendola of Texas Tech and Chris Lacy of Oklahoma State – the same number as Lions from Division II schools (Anthony Pittman of Wayne State, Jerome Cunningham of South Connecticut State and Dee Virgin of West Alabama).

Or, how about two rookie wide receivers from Old Dominion in Jonathan Duhart and Travis Fulgham?

There’s a lot of collegiate variety in the locker room, but you might want to stay away the week of Nov. 9 when those four Iowa alums could have words with the four Wisconsin Badgers – Beau Benzschawel, Garret Dooley, Rick Wagner and Austin Traylor – leading up to the rivalry showdown in Madison for the Heartland Trophy.

“Some friendly rivalry is always fun,” Donnal said.

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.

Where they came from

The full collegiate breakdown of where the 90 players in camp with the Lions on Thursday came from:

SEC, 19

Big Ten, 18

ACC, 11

Mountain West, 9

Pac 12, 7

FCS schools, 6

Conference USA, 3

MAC, 3

Big 12, 3

AAC, 3

Division II, 3

Sun Belt, 2

Independent (Notre Dame), 1

Division III, 1