Tahir Whitehead talks to youth football campers on Thursday. Whitehead, a linebacker for the Lions, stressed the importance of having good character to the youth at the Sylvania camp. THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Detroit Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead knows something about making first impressions.
A fifth-round draft pick (138th overall) by Detroit in the 2012 draft, Whitehead knows that he has to make new Lions coach Jim Caldwell notice him and his talent. Whitehead was chosen by his teammates at the end of last season for the Yale Lary special teams most valuable player award after recording nine tackles (seven solos) and forcing a fumble.
It’s a role that has allowed him to make the team and grow as a backup linebacker. The coaching change to Caldwell from Jim Schwartz gives him and other younger members of the roster new opportunities.
“It’s a fresh start,” Whitehead said. “It’s an opportunity for younger guys to be able to step in and take on certain roles and be able to play to make things happen for the team.
“Schwartz was a good coach, and Caldwell is a great coach as well,” said Whitehead after working at the Lions Youth Football camp for the second straight year at Northview High School in Sylvania. The 6-foot-2, 228-pound linebacker from Temple offered the young campers instruction on how to play the linebacker position.
He worked with them on proper tackling techniques before speaking to the group about the importance of being disciplined, having good character, and making good decisions on and off the field.
Caldwell’s NFL coaching career includes three seasons as the head coach in Indianapolis, which included leading the Colts to two playoff appearances and a loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV in 2009.
Caldwell, known as a mild-mannered coach along the lines of former Colts coach Tony Dungy, served as the Ravens offensive coordinator when they won Super Bowl XLVII in 2012.
“Caldwell is more of the sit back and let things happen [coach], and then he’ll speak on it and he’ll let you know what’s up and what you did wrong.”
Whitehead thinks the Lions will respond positively to the coaching change after an undisciplined Detroit team finished 7-9 and out of the playoff picture a year ago under Schwartz.