ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit Lions safety Miles Killebrew delivered his first big hit when he was still a preschooler. He was on a field. He was running and sliding and tackling. And it had nothing to do with football at all.
Instead, it earned him a red card and was an indication to his parents that their young son should probably find another sport.
“The first [big hit] in my life was actually in soccer,” Killebrew said. “I learned how to slide tackle, right. I was just hitting everybody whether they had the ball or not. I actually got red-carded my first couple years in soccer, had to be 4 or 5 years old, getting red-carded, kicked out of games.
“That’s when my parents moved me to football.”
It ended up being a smart move. Killebrew said his year of consistent red cards was his final one playing soccer, as his parents then placed him in a sport in which hitting was not only legal, but encouraged. And the desire to deliver big blows didn’t waver with the change in sport.
If anything, it continued at an even faster pace.
His favorite hit? Killebrew has a few from college, although one against an unnamed tight end from Northern Arizona stood out.
“That was a real fun one for me,” Killebrew said. “Just came across the middle and I was able to hit him. It’s rare. It’s rare that you get one just perfectly lined up, well-timed-out hit. But when it comes, it’s a blessing and I love it.
“But every other hit, every other tackle has to be a form tackle. That’s what I look forward to learning from the coaches here, to perfecting that craft. Just a good, old-fashioned tackle.”
Killebrew knows his ability to hit hard and make game-changing plays is what helped him get drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fourth round last month out of Southern Utah. It’s what caught the attention of many during the pre-draft process. It led him to be described as a “muscle hammer” on his NFL.com draft profile and left him wondering if that meant “like Thor or something.”
Yet he knows he needs to be able to complement his superhero-like big hits with the regular, functional ones that finish plays. And he’s confident he can do that.
How confident? Consider when he was asked if there was an NFL player he modeled his hitting after. He could have said Kam Chancellor or Troy Polamalu and it would have made complete sense. Except he went with a more unproven option.
“Well, I’m in the NFL now, so it’s me,” Killebrew said. “Hey, we’re all professionals now, so I want to create a brand of football that’s unique to me, within the Lions organization, of great football.”
It’s part of why Detroit drafted him and it’s something the Lions are counting on.