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Stafford is a cure for what the Lions have been missing

NEW YORK -- As Matthew Stafford enjoyed the dazzling sun that all in Central Park around him similarly absorbed on Friday afternoon, he recalled his first trip to this city. He says he was 9 or 10 years old.

"I got some fake Oakleys (sunglasses)," Stafford said. "We came for the Thanksgiving Day parade. We were at the parade, and I got lost in the crowd. I kept moving around to try to get a better view, and the more I moved, the further I got from my family. I was lost for awhile. Finally, I found something to stand up on above the crowd so they could see me. They did."


The Southeastern Conference is known for cultivating talent like Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, but when it comes to producing recent first-round picks, the league has to take a back seat. **More ...**

Sort of like his NFL draft experience.

This Georgia quarterback bolted after three collegiate seasons and now has found something to stand on that puts him high above the crowd -- he will be the draft's No. 1 pick. Stafford reached an agreement with the Lions on Friday night. Stafford is the choice. Stafford is the guy.

It is fitting, as the Lions look to find an answer at quarterback in a circuitous, frustrating search that has taken years of broken plays and busted dreams. Much like the Chicago Bears believe that Jay Cutler is their long-sought answer at the position, the Lions believe that Stafford is the answer. Two teams looking for the same thing in the same division -- the NFC North -- finally have a cure.

And Stafford is that -- a cure. The big arm is the noticeable trait, but there is more. He is 21, but admittedly, "when I shave I look 17," and there is a confident air about him and big-time approach that says, yes, he can do it.

He took part in the league's "Play 60" venture at Central Park that promotes fitness and education among youth, and he fielded questions from "reporters" one-third his age and from those at least three times his age and from others in-between. The answers were consistent.

Who are you?

"I'm a guy that's accountable," he said. "Georgia prepared me for this."

What about the pressure?

"Coming in as a No. 1 pick would be pressure on any rookie, but especially for a quarterback," he answered. "The Lions asked me questions like, 'What will you say to the media if you go 0-4 and throw four picks?' I think you've got to take the blame. Put it on me. I've been playing with that kind of attitude for a long time."

What about the money?

"That's not the sole reason I play," he said. "I want to know my stuff, be prepared. I want to stay true to my ability. I'm not in it to play two or three years, but to have a long career of more than 10 years."

Some of his best advice during these long weeks of prodding and picking over his skills, his merit, came from New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Stay confident no matter what happens around you, Brees told him.

And Stafford has. Even when criticism about his game reached its peak, especially the notion that he has that cannon arm and little more.

"I think that was the toughest stuff to listen to, that I'm just a guy who throws the ball hard," Stafford said. "I played at Georgia with a young offensive line and I was responsible for an assortment of calls and for managing so much of the offense. But I've heard the characterizations that question my ability to overall lead an offense and manage things. Sometimes when people think you do one thing very well, they decide that's all you can do. I have a lot more confidence in myself than that."

Apparently, so do the Lions.

"We've had some good talks, some good visits and sessions and I would feel very comfortable there and believe I could become a part of growing something special," Stafford said. "I wouldn't feel lost there at all."

No, more like a guy rescued, found. On top of the 2009 draft class, one who at first glance stands tallest above them all.

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