Allen Park — For a guy like Kyle Sloter, quarterbacks Tony Romo and Kurt Warner are the gold standard.
The Lions current No. 2 can relate to the undrafted parts of their stories and envisions himself being a Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowler someday — if he ever gets the chance.
But while Warner famously stocked shelves before his big break, Sloter has been stacking chips on his shoulders as his journey has unfolded.
“Everybody has been doubting me my whole life, and at no point have they been right,” Sloter said Monday. “I’m just waiting for an opportunity. So whenever that comes, I’m going to try to be ready.”
For a team like the Lions, with a sputtering offense and nothing substantial to gain from a victory in Sunday's finale against Green Bay, that opportunity could come this weekend.
Lions coach Matt Patricia gave no indication if Sloter will be under center as the Lions (3-11-1) wrap up the season, or if David Blough will start his fifth game instead.
But the former collegiate wide receiver Sloter talks a big game, and at each juncture during his career, he’s backed it up.
“I know I can be a starter in this league. Nothing so far in this league has told me that I can’t be,” Sloter said. “I’m ready whenever they need me.”
Even before he became a standout prep quarterback at Mount Pisgah Christian High in Johns Creek, Georgia, Sloter said he only landed there because another school said he couldn’t play quarterback for them.
Just a two-star recruit despite accumulating more than 9,200 yards of total offense in high school, Sloter went to Southern Miss but redshirted his first year as the Golden Eagles went from 12 wins to 0-12.
After coach Ellis Johnson was fired, new coach Todd Monken moved Sloter to wide receiver for the 2013 season.
As a sophomore, Sloter was moved again to tight end, and totaled just seven catches for 47 yards over two seasons in Hattiesburg.
He sought out Football Championship Subdivision schools for a transfer and landed at Northern Colorado.
Still, the quarterback job didn’t open up for Sloter until his second season there, his final one in college football.
As a senior in 2016, Sloter threw three passes in relief in his first game at quarterback, then threw six touchdowns to break the school record in his second. He ended the season with 2,665 yards and 29 touchdowns, as the Big Sky Conference Bears went 6-5.
Uninvited to the 2017 NFL Combine, Sloter joined Romo and Warner as undrafted FCS quarterbacks who didn’t quite get on teams’ radars. He nearly took a job as a financial advisor in Atlanta.
Following his dream one last time, Sloter landed with Denver as a free agent and had a solid preseason after Chad Kelly and Paxton Lynch missed games with injuries.
“They told me I couldn’t move back to quarterback, and I did that, and got a chance in the NFL,” Sloter said.
Stilll, Sloter was cut after camp, and then joined Minnesota's practice squad.
In Minnesota, the “Sloter House” moniker and accompanying T-shirt gained steam in and stuck more than a full season with the Vikings, but eventually, Sloter didn’t.
After sticking around for the 2018 season, Sloter was cut by the Vikings after camp this summer and landed with Arizona's practice squad.
The Lions picked Sloter, 25, up for the 53-man roster on Nov. 30 after Jeff Driskel’s season ended and signed Sloter to a two-year deal. Sloter has been active for three games as Blough’s backup but still has not played in an NFL regular season game.
“Right now the biggest thing for the quarterback, specifically, is each week the game plan is just learning that week’s game plan,” Patricia said. “We feel confident that if he had to go out there he’d be able to execute the game plan for that week from that standpoint, certainly.”
The 6-foot-5 Sloter says his mobility and history as a wide receiver are assets, and he’s growing more comfortable in Detroit as the weeks go by.
Over time, his confidence has been buoyed by a little fuel from negative media clippings and social media slights.
“I’ve got some things from high school, from college, got a couple things from some reporters back in Minnesota that I’ve got taped up on a mirror,” Sloter said. “Those guys are what keep me going, for sure.
“I’m not an, ‘I told you so’ kind of guy, but I definitely think about it."
And while Patricia might feel confident in Sloter’s ability, the coach has nothing on Sloter’s own idea of what would happen.
"I’m kind of a guy that’s fueled off of people telling me that I can’t do something,” Sloter said. “Having an unwavering belief in yourself is what sets guys apart. Whether I go out there in my first time and I tear it up or I don’t, I’m going to come back the next week and believe that I can do it. Because that’s the type of person that I am.
“And I always believed that that’s the type of person that it takes to be successful in anything.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.