ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The first thing you notice about LaAdrian Waddle is his hands. They are massive. They look twice the size of an average man’s.
When he shakes someone else’s hand, his hand almost swallows the other, making it disappear for a second before letting go and seeing the other hand reappear.
These hands, of course, is part of what makes Waddle a good find for the Detroit Lions. An undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech, he wasn’t even invited to the NFL combine. Wasn’t drafted, either, and was signed by the Lions soon after the draft.
“He obviously came in as a free agent and it was like, ‘Man, where did this great talent come from? He’s got it. How could this dude not be drafted?’" left guard Rob Sims said. “That was what I was thinking.”
Then injuries came. Fox was injured. Twice. Reiff hurt his hamstring in the first half against Cincinnati on Sunday and the undrafted, mostly unknown Waddle now had to play left tackle against the Bengals.
Nerves? No nerves. His first play, he came across the line on a pull and, as Hilliard put it, “knocked the doo doo out of one of the linebackers for the Bengals.” The linebacker was Vontaze Burfict. In other words, Waddle was just fine.
Waddle explained it Wednesday like this: He had no time to be concerned. He had to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford’s blind side so if he became nervous, it could have been disastrous for Detroit.
“Once I got in, I definitely had that adrenaline rush,” Waddle said. “That I’m actually in the game. That’s what I’ve been waiting to do, play in an actual game like that.
“It was definitely a great experience and I’m looking forward to playing more, whether that’s this week or whenever. But I really didn’t have time to freak out.”
He didn’t at all. He was so calm, Sims was kind of taken back because he remembered his first game, when he was “so nervous.” Larry Warford was so focused in his first game, he didn’t even know Detroit switched right tackles due to injury and he was playing next to Fox and then Hilliard.
Warford did see, though, when Hilliard got hurt and Waddle shifted from the left side to right tackle. Reiff came back in the game due to Hilliard’s injury and the Lions had two rookies starting on the right side of the offensive line in the fourth quarter.
Did it rattle Waddle at all? He says no. Sims said he didn’t hear anything from Waddle on the switch. Neither did Warford.
“I don’t need to tell him anything. He’s going to be good,” Warford said. “He knows the game plan just as well as I do and everybody else in that room. Knows what to do, how we’re supposed to approach it because we practice it every day.
“So I don’t really need to talk to him other than communicating with him, which is a normal thing for an offensive lineman. He’s going to be good.”
There’s a chance Waddle starts this week with Reiff and Hilliard both ailing and veteran Barry Richardson, who was signed Tuesday, still learning the system. He said he isn’t getting nervous about that, either. He isn’t worried about it, either.
What helps him is his personality. While he uses “hardcore underground rap” to help push him before practices and games, Waddle is otherwise a laid back person. Nothing really gets to him.
And the 43 snaps he played against the Bengals gave him an idea of what a full game might be like. So nerves? Nope, not at all.
“Now I played,” Waddle said. “You know what I’m saying. I’ve got not much experience, but I got a little somethin’ somethin’.”
A little “somethin’ somethin’" now has the potential turn into a big deal. Not that you’ll know it from looking at Waddle. He won’t give you that impression at all.
“Just his facial expressions, his mannerisms,” Hilliard said. “If a bad play happens, you can’t tell on his face that he’s flustered. He’s just laid back, man.
“Nothing gets to him. I just don’t see anything getting to him.”