I’m going to make it count
Penei Sewell doesn’t have a hard time remembering why he plays soccer. All he has to do is look at the watch his father gave him for Christmas.
The Oregon offensive lineman has come a long way from growing up on the tiny, impoverished island of American Samoa to becoming the Detroit Lions’ seventh election on the NFL draft.
Sewell grew up in a humble house he called a hut and sometimes slept on the floor. American Samoa has a population of around 55,000 and one of the highest poverty rates in the country.
“So my father gave all of us, my siblings and me, a present and it was a clock,” Sewell said during his introductory press conference on Saturday. “And the case inside had a picture of our home and ultimately said that in this life that we have this time and that time is shared with the family is most important.
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“And right there, I remember when he gave it to me, I was a bit emotional. And I looked at this picture and this watch every day. And that reminds me of where I’m from. That reminds me why I am doing this. It reminds me of everything it took to get here. And that helps me motivate myself every day and get myself out of bed. Looking mom and dad in the eye and seeing where we were, man, is another motivation again. “
While Sewell and his family were having dinner with the Lions on Friday night, his mother, Arlene, had to ask Lions security chief Elton Moore to pinch her.
“It’s crazy where we are,” Sewell said, “and going the way we’re going, man, it’s amazing, and I’m picking it all up every second.
“I’m not wasting anything here. I try to see everything, I try to meet everyone I just want to be a sponge and take it all in because you are living this life all over again and I will make it count. “
Likewise, Lions rely heavily on Sewell. The draft consensus top offensive lineman is expected to start the right attack. He will be one of three former first-round picks on an offensive line that will be counted on as a great strength.
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“It’s not every day that you find an athlete who’s your height and temperament,” said trainer Dan Campbell of the 6-foot-5,330-pound machine. “All right, this is a tough guy who knows how to play bad and he can protect the quarterback. This is what you are looking for when trying to build a foundation on the O-Line.
“It will fit like a glove. I’ve said it before to the people who are up there and who we already have in the building. He will go hand in hand with you and adapt quickly. “
Although Sewell is young – he won’t turn 21 until October – he may not have a problem adapting to NFL competition as he has been playing with older children since he started playing football when he was 10.
“And back then there were some big 13- and 14-year-olds on the island,” he said. “So I remember practicing going against all these big boys. It wasn’t really fun. Somehow I didn’t like the sport for a minute just because everyone picked me up. I was very young when I was picked up. “
Sewell should have a knowledgeable ally during his NFL trip in Lions offensive coach Hank Fraley who recruited him as a UCLA assistant and attended one of his high school games.
“He was one of the few coaches who actually came to St. George, Utah to watch a high school game,” Sewell said. “And I remember the game I played in, it was against Pine View at Pine View. So seeing him there meant something and I knew he was different because he was one of the few who did. He could only stay until half-time, but we had a talk beforehand. “
Sewell was the 2019 Outland Trophy winner as the best offensive lineman in the country, but dropped out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it was a particularly dire decision since his younger brother Noah was a newcomer to the Ducks.
But Sewell made a promise to himself while watching his teammates compete without him.
“When I’ve watched everyone,” he said, “I wrote in my notes that the next time I step on the field, I’ll make the most of it and that everyone will feel my passion and my heart when I do step between these lines next time.
“Because man, it was hard to see – especially the little brother out there and for me not to really go out and share this moment with him – it was difficult. So I wrote in my notes that I sit outside for a reason, go out with a purpose, and make the most of it the next time I get my chance. “
Contact Carlos Monarrez at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.