'He takes control': Door open for Lions' David Blough to continue proving he belongs in NFL
Allen Park — Cole Herdman became a big Lions fan last week when his college roommate became the team’s starting quarterback for a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game.
He cheered alongside his entire family in Virginia for his close friend, as did many in West Lafayette, Ind., and in David Blough’s hometown of Carrolton, Texas.
Now back on the field this week with Blough for the first time since pro day, the new Lions practice squad tight end knew more than most about the audacity his Purdue teammate had to look like he belonged in his first career NFL start.
“He takes control of a room whether he’s been there for five years or just walked in a couple weeks ago,” Herdman said. “He’s a professional at what he does, studies the game well. He just does everything the right way, and he’s a guy you want with that starting quarterback job.”
That “room” last week was Ford Field, where Blough impressed despite a 24-20 loss to Chicago, connecting on 22-of-38 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
An undrafted rookie, Blough said the nerves were about what he expected but the pocket pressure was not.
With the Bears' vaunted defense across the line of scrimmage, Blough said he had a moment of calm late in the first half as he realized he hadn’t yet been touched all game.
“I remember sitting there thinking — ‘Man, Khalil Mack?’ I’m thinking how great (tackles Taylor) Decker and Rick (Wagner) and those guys were playing, and that was cool,” Blough said. “Those guys — going back and watching the tape how they graded it out, it was fun to be able to stand back there behind those guys and know they had my back.”
Lions’ fans had an unexpected respite of fun watching Blough, perhaps fearing the worst after he bounced his first pass to T.J. Hockenson with Detroit already down 7-0 in the first quarter.
But his second pass was a 75-yard touchdown bomb to a wide open Kenny Golladay, bringing fans out of the recliner, perhaps spilling some Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres in the process.
Later, the amateur magician ran out of tricks. Blough directed a 2-minute potential game-winning drive, which started promising but ended with a third-and-long sack as the Lions approached the Chicago red zone. His desperate fourth-down pass to Golladay was intercepted.
“I think we were explosive,” Blough said. “I think there were some big plays that we were able to capitalize on, but I think there were some things that obviously teams will see in the future.
“They saw that maybe I struggled with some of the protection stuff, and it cost us late in the game, and that’s on me as a player to be able to understand those things.
“Going forward those are things that I look to improve, and the guys and the coaches have done a great job of having my back and making sure I know what I need to.”
Let’s just pretend social media calls for the Lions to trade starter Matthew Stafford because of Blough’s unexpectedly solid performance are parody and deal with what’s true.
With Stafford continuing to nurse a back injury and backup Jeff Driskel out for the season with a hamstring injury, the rest of the Lions’ season could be Blough’s to make hay.
To be this far at this point is already unexpected after not having his name called on draft day and looking like a probable cut day causality in Cleveland.
In the final preseason game against Detroit though, Blough was efficient with 11-of-17 passing. Despite two interceptions, Blough helped the Browns to a 20-16 win.
Impressed by his potential as a developmental prospect, Detroit exchanged a conditional seventh-round pick swap for Blough.
While general manager Bob Quinn underwent an early-season depth quarterback shuffle, the Lions carried Blough on the game-day roster twice early this season as Stafford played.
Blough was the only backup dressed in Week 3 at Philadelphia, while Driskel and Blough dressed the following week against Kansas City.
Driskel then assumed the backup duties and stepped in as Stafford was sidelined in Chicago on Nov. 10.
Three games and three losses later, it was Blough’s turn in the rematch after Driskel was sidelined.
While the news may have confused revelers on the "biggest bar night of the year" last week, Herdman was confident his buddy had this.
Herdman and Blough came to Purdue together in 2014 and redshirted one season for former coach Darrell Hazell.
Both were solid contributors in each of their four seasons in West Lafayette, with Blough leading the Boilermakers to consecutive bowl appearances in his final two seasons as a starter under coach Jeff Brohm.
The pair roomed together as fifth-year seniors, playing Fortnite, Madden and Call of Duty, while enrolled in a recreational and sports management graduate program.
Both worked throughout the spring to prepare, and when the NFL scouts came to town, Blough was a perfect 11 for 11 on passes to Herdman at Purdue's pro day.
Still, Purdue’s 21-year streak of having a player drafted to the NFL was snapped, and Blough, Herdman and a handful of other Boilermakers scattered around the league as undrafted free agents.
Herdman wound up with Baltimore, but stayed in close touch with Blough over video games and FaceTime, getting encouragement from his friend when the Ravens cut him after training camp,
Baltimore brought him on to the practice squad in September when former Lions prospect running back Mark Thompson went on practice squad injured reserve, but less than a month later Herdman was let go again.
Blough encouraged Herdman when he came to Detroit for a recent workout, and Herdman remained a big Blough fan from the sidelines.
Before Herdman was signed Wednesday by the Lions, he was a just a proud friend, gassing up his teammate after stepping into the national spotlight for a couple hours.
Herdman retweeted a Twitter parody collage of the “All-time great QB-WR duos,” which included Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Tom Brady and Randy Moss, and Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin — alongside Blough and Golladay.
“I’m excited to be here with him, he’s doing a great job,” Herdman said. “I’m wishing for the best this week too, I know he’s going to kill it.”
Lions at Vikings
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
TV/radio: Fox/760 AM
Records: Lions 3-8-1, Vikings 8-3
Line: Vikings by 14
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.