Uprooted RB J.D. McKissic ready for 'something special' with Lions, Darrell Bevell
Allen Park — Imagine being fired from your job. That's a difficult situation for any American. But you find new employment within a day, which softens the blow. The only problem is it's across the country and your first day is tomorrow. And the new job, well, it's the furthest thing from secure.
That's what life often looks like for guys on the bottom part of an NFL roster. Here today, gone tomorrow, hoping that next opportunity comes sooner than later.
That was this week for running back J.D. McKissic.
After two years in Seattle, including a productive 2017 campaign before a foot injury derailed his momentum last season, he was waived by organization over the weekend, when more than 1,000 players were cut around the league.
McKissic was one of the lucky ones, a discarded piece that ended up being a desired commodity for another team. He was one of fewer than 40 players claimed off waivers the next day, snagged by the Detroit Lions.
"When one door closes, another one opens," he said. "You have to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity."
Still, it's never easy to uproot your life and start over in another city 2,000 miles away. For McKissic, he was able to lean on two things. First, he's been through this before, having spent his rookie season in Atlanta before he was claimed off waivers by the Seahawks.
"It's not something you want to get used to, but I was more comfortable with it," McKissic said. "I understand the business. I felt like I did a good job in Seattle, but now it's time to move on, come to Detroit and help this team do great things."
Second, he has a strong support network, including two NFL journeymen who attended the same college as him, Arkansas State, who offered a strong mix of advice and encouragement.
Safety Don Jones, who has played for six teams and is currently a free agent, reminded McKissic that once the team moves on, you have to be prepared to move on, too.
But here's the kicker to McKissic's whirlwind week. He's landing in a spot where he has a champion in his corner, someone who knows his skill set and knows what he can do on the field. That man is offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who served in the same role in Seattle in 2017, when McKissic had his best season.
"Coming from Seattle to Detroit, reunited with Bevell, it's something special," McKissic said. "Like I told the other guys, I know I have to earn my reps. I don't expect anything to be handed to me. But not having to study the playbook all night, because you already know a good bit of it, that's the plus side.
"With Bevell giving me the opportunity to do some things in Seattle, I'm definitely grateful to be back with him here in Detroit."
McKissic said Bevell's playbook is more or less the same. There's some new wrinkles, some new words mixed into the play calls and a few new signals, but nothing that would prevent the young back from hitting the ground running.
Now he just has to prove to everyone else he's a good fit in Detroit.
"I see how I can (fit in), but I've got to earn that," he said. "I have to show the guys, the team and the coaches what I can do. ...I also want to get in on some special teams and make plays there, but I have to earn that, too. Nothing is given in this world and I'm prepared for that."