How Detroit Lions TE Darren Fells went from playing basketball overseas to NFL mainstay

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Darren Fells is in his second stint with the Detroit Lions after re-signing this spring. The veteran tight end stopped to answer five questions for the Free Press before the Lions' game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.

You're known as a blocking tight end but you caught 11 touchdown passes the past two seasons with the Houston Texans. What's the better feeling, burying someone in the ground or getting in the end zone?

Definitely burying someone to the ground. It's a man's sport so that means you just got the best of the person right there. Unless you Moss someone, then you still get the best of them, so it's a tough question but I'll have to go with blocking, burying someone in the ground.

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Since you played professional basketball before reaching the NFL, who is the all-time G.O.A.T., Tom Brady, Michael Jordan or someone else?

Lions tight end Darren Fells runs against the Ravens during the first half of the Lions' 19-17 loss at Ford Field on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021.
Lions tight end Darren Fells runs against the Ravens during the first half of the Lions' 19-17 loss at Ford Field on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021.

Ooh. I've got to go with Tom Brady. That's a lot harder feat to accomplish football than it is basketball. Nothing against Michael Jordan. I mean, obviously, he's the G.O.A.T. when it comes to basketball, but overall Tom Brady, I feel.

This is off-script, but since you just picked Brady, who is more responsible for the Patriots' dynasty, Tom Brady or Bill Belichick?

I'm going to plead the fifth on that one.

Fair enough. Back on script, you played five seasons of pro basketball overseas. That would be a dream for a lot of people, playing a sport they love and traveling. But what was the most challenging part?

The biggest thing is adjusting to that culture and then being by yourself. So many people are so used to being in their shell, so being able to get out of your shell and explore and experience different cultures, different languages, foods, things like that, was definitely the hardest part.

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What's the best investment you've ever made?

Best investment? Financially or just in general?

That's why it's vague. Could be financial, could be something you did for yourself. Whatever you want.

I guess I would say myself, changing from basketball to football, I invested in myself knowing that I had a sure thing playing basketball, not knowing how football was going to turn out and just knowing that I had the work ethic and mental drive to do what I do. And now Year 9 in the NFL, that's pretty awesome.

How scary was it when you first made the change?

100%. Cause actually I had signed a contract already to go overseas, so I knew I already had a job compared to best case scenario, probably practice squad. Cause I hadn't played football in nine years. So it definitely was scary.

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So why do it?

I believed in myself that I can do it. I knew I wanted to come back home to the U.S. and start building a family, and I knew being overseas it was going to be tough being away for 10 months out of the year, so I had to invest in myself and do that.

I know you've two kids and every once in a while you'll enjoy a tea party with your daughter. Tell me your favorite tea party story.

Now that my daughter's getting a little bit older, her new thing was makeup, so I remember walking in — I actually have a video on my phone; every time I look at it I laugh — and she's putting makeup on my son. It's bright pink, everything all over, and then she smiles and laughs, he smiles and laughs cause obviously he doesn't know. She's like, 'OK, your turn Daddy.' So now I have a pretty extensive photo shoot with her doing makeup, a little beauty shop now. So adjusting from my daughter doing that to my son. He's more of a fighter, likes doing ninja and football, stuff like that.

Since you're playing Chicago this week, what's it like blocking Khalil Mack?

Oh, you've got to bring your A game every single time. He's a tough, tough guy. Obviously, his name, everybody knows who he is. It's just one of those things, you've got to prepare every single day, watch film, make sure you know exactly who you're going up against.

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

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' Darren Fells: From basketball overseas to NFL