Jerome Couplin's birthday gift? Roster spot

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jerome Couplin’s birthday was Sunday. The best present came the day before, courtesy of his employer.

It was a gift, though, that wasn’t really a gift at all. Couplin put himself in this position with the Detroit Lions through his play during the spring workouts and the preseason. He’s the one who forced the team to have to make a tough decision on the safety’s status.

And that ended up working out when his agent called him just before 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. It was then Couplin, an undrafted free agent from William & Mary, found out he made Detroit’s 53-man roster.

“I was quiet and I just started smiling,” Couplin said. “My father and grandfather looked at me and were like, ‘He must have just gotten some great news.’ “

Couplin and his family were actually at a football game when he found out he had made the Lions. He had traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia, earlier in the day to see the Tribe -- an FCS school -- take on in-state power Virginia Tech. And just before the game kicked off -- a 34-9 Hokies win -- Couplin received his good news.

There is some coincidence there, too. It was on an FBS field a year earlier, against West Virginia, where Couplin began to make an even stronger name for himself with the NFL. Couplin had 14 tackles against the Mountaineers and a tackle for loss as the Tribe almost upset the higher-division foe.

And after this year’s William & Mary team lost, the players and coaches still found Couplin and wondered what had happened with his fate.

“My teammates who saw me, coaches who saw me after the game asked me about the deal,” Couplin said. “They were very happy for me. It was a great birthday gift. A great accomplishment. As people say, it’s a dream come true but at the same time I have to keep doing what I was doing in training camp and keep going and keep progressing.”

That progression may come quick. While safety James Ihedigbo says he will be ready for Monday night’s season opener against the New York Giants, if he is unable to play, Couplin is listed as the No. 2 strong safety on the depth chart. Also, Don Carey has been out with a hamstring injury, so his status is unknown.

With those two players out, it is conceivable Couplin could end up active his first game and Ihedigbo expressed confidence in the rookie. Even if veteran Isa Abdul-Quddus started in place of Ihedigbo during the preseason, there’s at least a chance the rookie could end up making an early impact.

Not bad for someone who didn’t know if he’d be on the roster a week ago.

“It just feels great. It’s an honor. It’s a privilege,” Couplin said. “It’s an accomplishment. But at the same time, there’s still a lot to do and a lot of work to get done. But at the same time, it’s a good step in the right direction.”