Inspirational father of Lions DT Kevin Strong passes away

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — They fought for each other.

Kevin Strong Jr., the undrafted defensive tackle who came out of nowhere to claim a roster spot for the Detroit Lions this past offseason, used his father Kevin Strong Sr.'s lengthy cancer battle as motivation. 

That battle came to an end earlier this month when Strong Sr. passed away. He was 51. 

Kevin Strong Jr. is pictured with his patents, Kevin Sr. and Tanisha.

"I can’t believe it’s already been 3 days since you left us pops," Strong Jr. wrote on Twitter. "Today was the first day the sun shined since you left. My heart still hurting but that sunlight show me your all your pain been uplifted! I know you smiling down on us, love you pops."

Strong Jr. came to the Lions as an undrafted free agent out of University of Texas San Antonio, where he had previously played for Detroit defensive line coach Bo Davis. Quite and unassuming, Strong Jr. turned heads early in training camp with his pass-rushing prowess. 

It was during the team's trip to Houston, for a pair of joint practices and a preseason game with the Texans, that it came to light there were layers to the young lineman's motivation. His father, Strong Sr., attended the practices in between treatments for Stage-4 lung cancer, which he had been diagnosed with two years earlier. 

"As long as he keeps pushing, I’m going to keep pushing," Strong Jr. said. "I'm going to push all day and I know he will, too. It’s battle for battle. We’ll just keep going, going through the process."

Father and son remained in constant communication this year and Strong Jr. had the joy of sharing he had overcome the odds to make the Lions' roster in September. 

"He shows his emotion, but he's (usually) more laid back and chill," Strong Jr. said. "To see him jump up and jump around, that was amazing. I knew that I truly brought happiness to him."

Strong Jr. appeared in eight games for the Lions in 2019 before suffering a season-ending rib injury. He remains under contract and should have an opportunity to compete for a role this offseason.