Eric Ebron is an imposing figure. Standing at an impressive 6-foot-5 with 252 pounds of solid muscle, the tight end for the Detroit Lions is a force to be reckoned with both on and off the field. Drafted by the Lions 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Ebron is still shining bright in his third season with the team. A standout talent during his college years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ebron continues to be a standout on the field for Detroit. He’s stepping into his greatness and shaking off his haters, while setting out to prove to Detroit and to the rest of the world just how great he really is.
There’s another side to Ebron, though. He’s a young man with heart, dreams, lofty goals and long-term “tunnel” vision. This other side showcases just how intelligent and mature he is. One wouldn’t guess that he embodies these attributes at such a young age just by looking at him. His chest and arms are beautifully painted with endless murals of dope tattoos that could be considered intimidating at first glance. But for this gentle giant, he’s on the right track and he exudes the wisdom and confidence of a grounded and well-established young man.
Ebron sat down exclusively with rolling out to discuss his journey from college to the pros and sheds some light on who he is now, what it’s been like living in Detroit and playing for the Lions, and what he’s looking forward to after the NFL. He gave ro a glimpse of what it’s like to be Eric Ebron: young, gifted, talented and wealthy.
You’ve been in the NFL since 2014, so you have a pretty good idea of what it takes to be successful on a professional level. Tell us what success looks like in the NFL.
You have to win. It doesn’t matter what team you play for, if you don’t win, you’re pretty much not successful. In the NFL, you just have to win. Individual stats don’t matter, people could care less, fans come to the game for excitement and for wins. So, to succeed and be successful there, you just have to win.
Winning requires mental fortitude. How do you obtain the mental toughness needed to be at the top of your game?
Just prepare. You always have to think about your opponent or other players that play your position. You have to be mentally stronger than them and better prepared. You have to be mentally prepared to outwork them and outdo them because there’s always someone out there that’s trying to be better than you. You just have to be mentally ready for anything.
Does that also include a ritual before games?
Everybody has something that they do that helps them get ready or get prepared for the game. For me, I like to listen to real reckless music. What I mean by “reckless” is not cussing, or things like that, it’s just anything with a beat that just gets you motivated. So, that’s what I like to do. I dance a little bit, but it’s just pre-game dancing. I don’t dance in the game or when the game is on. It’s just a lot of pre-game dancing that helps me to boost my morale for the game.
Since music helps you prepare for a game, tell us five artists who are in your playlist right now.
Rich Homie Quan, Little Wayne, Young Thug, Drake and Desiigner. The song “Panda” by Desiigner is going to be No. 1 on my playlist every game. Oh, and Kanye West, too. And Kendrick Lamar. Man, I can go on and on all day. All I do is listen to music.
What’s the primary song that gets you hyped up right before you go on the field?
“Panda” by Desiigner. Well, that’s for this year. I don’t know what it was last year. Last year was a long time ago. So, my top three songs this year are going to be “Panda,” probably the remix version with Kanye, the “Untitled 07,” by Kendrick Lamar, and my third song would probably be Drake’s song “Pop Style.”
What’s the craziest thing someone asked you for after they learned you had been drafted?
The craziest thing I ever got asked for was uh … oh man … I’ve been asked to buy houses, new cars. I’ve been asked to do it all. I’ve been asked for like $250K one time. I’ve been asked for everything. Anything and everything you can be asked for, I’ve been hit with.
Speaking of crazy things, sometimes new draft picks spend their money on crazy things, too. What would you tell them about saving for retirement?
It all depends on how you handle it. For me, I’m in my third year. I’ve pretty much gotten everything I’ve ever wanted. I got my mom a house, a new car, took care of my brothers, my immediate family, my dad’s fine. So, to me now it’s all about saving and investing and building for things that are going to get me money more than just spending money. But you have to spend money to make money, but it takes time. I’m in my third year and now I’m just starting to do those things. So, you know you just got to build your money first, save your money, and then go into investing and that leads to business planning and things like that. Then you’re able to do stuff that makes you money rather than you just always spending money.
I think that’s great advice: Build it, save it, then invest it. For you, who are the top three players in the NFL that you admire for their business sense?
Thomas Davis is one guy that I’m really close with that really holds down his charity. Next to him is Stephen Tulloch. One of the guys I’ve played with, and I’ve been a part of his foundation and helping him out. I would put Calvin Johnson and Stephen Tulloch together, because I’ve also been a part of Calvin’s foundation and they both do a tremendous job with what they do in helping the community and giving back with scholarships and giving to relief funds in places like Haiti. It’s amazing the things that they do. Third is Patrick Peterson. I’m really cool with him. I see a lot of things that he does with his foundation, golfing fundraisers and softball events.
A lot of NFL players go on to do bigger and better things after their career is over. What are your plans after the NFL?
I want to be an NFL analyst. I want to basically break down film and players and analyze how good they are. More like a motivational speaker in the sport. I want to keep it at an NFL level and it’s something I can relate to.
What advice would you give to aspiring athletes?
Just have tunnel vision and set goals. One thing that I wanted to make sure happened when I grew up was to ensure that my mom was happy. Once I made sure she was happy, I set another goal for something else. By having tunnel vision, it helps you to block out all of the distractions and make sure that no one or nothing can get in the way of what you set your goals on when you get older or what you want to set your goals on professionally. Once you do that, it’s easy to accomplish because you don’t have anything else to focus on but just that.
Now, we want to find out more about Eric as a person. Describe your style and swag.
I’m different, as I like to say. I’m a man of different swags and different styles. I like to do things differently; I don’t like to follow in anyone’s footstep, that’s just on a style standpoint. My personality though, I’m a goofball. I like to have fun, crack jokes and be funny. I don’t really like to be miserable or stressed out or anything like that because it’s corny. Life’s too short.
Let’s talk about your Detroit experience. Describe how you feel about living in the Detroit metro area.
To me, it’s cool. I feel like a lot of people have mistaken Detroit for something that it’s not. We have great fans. We have every sport. I don’t see a reason why Detroit has to be bad. I have fun. I go to baseball games, basketball games, hockey games. I mean, there’s stuff to do. It’s fun. So, I’m cool with it.
What do you think about Detroit fans? Are they die-hard fans?
They’re definitely die-hard fans, and they’ll tell you whatever it is that is on their minds, too. It’s cool, and that’s what you want. You want fans that’ll have your back. You want fans that want nothing but greatness out of you. And it makes us want to perform for them and play well.
Name three favorite spots that you like to eat at in Detroit.
My first one is the Hudson Café, which is right downtown and I like to go there for their breakfast food. The other place I go to is Lily’s on the Green; that’s my favorite dinner place. And my third place is Ocean Prime, which is located in Troy.
Story by Porsha Monique
Images by Treagen Kier