New Detroit Lions S Kerby Joseph: 'My eyes just blew up in my head' at NFL draft day call

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Kerby Joseph rented an Airbnb for his NFL draft party Friday, and the Detroit Lions made sure no one in attendance went home disappointed.

The Lions took Joseph, a ball-hawking safety from Illinois, with the 33rd pick of the third round, No. 97 overall.

Joseph said he had "a lot of anxiety building up" during Friday's second and third rounds as six safeties and 13 defensive backs went off the board before he heard his name called. The Indianapolis Colts traded up to No. 96 and took Maryland safety Nick Cross one spot before the Lions nabbed Joseph.

THE MAN: Get to know Kerby Joseph, the top-ranked college DB in 2021

THE MYTH: Joseph ranked No. 1 by PFF experts: 'He went off'

THE INSTANT GRADE: Production at position of need

"I feel like when I got the phone call, like my eyes just blew up in my head," Joseph said. "It was just like, 'Yo, this is finally happening.' Like, this is what I’ve been dreaming about, this is what I’ve been seeing on TV ever since I was a kid. Just now actually going through it, and then seeing it physically in my hand, the phone call, and then picking up and talking, it was just like, I’m just so at a loss for words and all the anxiety and all the stress left my body and I’m just filled with joy now."

Sitting in front of a two-tone wall with a painting of birds over his shoulder, Joseph talked excitedly with reporters via Zoom from the garage of his rental house.

He said he retreated to the quiet corner to get away from the party raging inside.

"The wait didn’t too much bother me," he said. "It motivated me. It didn’t bring me down, it didn’t lower my confidence, all that stuff. It just made me want to go even harder."

The Lions are counting on Joseph to contribute on special teams and in their revamped secondary this fall after his breakout senior season at Illinois.

Joseph, 6 feet 1 and 203 pounds, started as a safety in 2018, switched to receiver in 2020 and moved back to defense later the same year. He had the first five interceptions of his career last season, when he said he benefitted from playing defense full-time.

Illinois defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) kneels in the end zone before the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.
Illinois defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) kneels in the end zone before the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.

"Kerby is another guy that's got a lot of high upside," Lions general manager Brad Holmes said. "Still developmental, only been playing the position for about a year, but has been a high-level special teams player. Good range and elite ball skills and can turn the football over."

The Lions used the first two days of the draft to bolster their defense, spending three of their four top-100 picks on that side of the ball.

Joseph's addition helps solidify a safety room that was one of the biggest question marks heading into the offseason.

The Lions re-signed Tracy Walker early in free agency and added projected starter DeShon Elliott on a one-year deal in mid-April. Will Harris is ticketed for a hybrid cornerback/safety role this fall, though Holmes did not mention Harris when discussing the position Friday.

The Lions also return special teams standouts C.J. Moore and Brady Breeze at the position.

"That’s probably fair to say that we’re a little bit better there (than we were a few weeks ago)," Holmes said. "But no, it’s not just being better. We just were very, very young. Obviously, we were fortunate enough to re-sign Tracy and get him back and then Deshon is still a young player that has ample playing experience, but the guys behind them just hadn’t played a lot. And Kerby’s going to be a rookie, but again, I do think the competition is going to be fierce from a depth standpoint."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions S Kerby Joseph celebrates on NFL draft day