It's pretty obvious now why Detroit coach Jim Schwartz waited outside Vanden Bosch's house as the clock ticked to the start of free agency in March 2010, and the reasons aren't confined to the eight sacks he's registered in 17 games as a Lion. Almost as important have been the lessons he's bestowed on what's becoming one of the nastier and most feared units in the league.
NFL.com takes a weekly look at leaders around the league and why they are difference-makers for their teams on and off the field. This week, we take a closer look at Kyle Vanden Bosch, an 11-year NFL veteran who is the inspirational leader of a young and talented Lions defense.
Vanden Bosch bio:
Born: Nov. 17, 1978
Hometown: Larchwood, Iowa
Did you know?
» Vanden Bosch started three years at fullback in high school and set the school's scoring mark with 264 career points.
» As a Nebraska sophomore, he set a single-season record with three blocked kicks.
» In 2010, Vanden Bosch signed a four-year, $26 million deal with the Lions.
"There's no question about it -- he's changed how I've played, changed my game, since I got here," Avril said the other night, over the phone. "The first couple of weeks after he came in, he wasn't talking to anyone, and some of the younger players thought he might be a jerk. And so the first time we're practicing out there, you see him, and he's running 50, 60 yards to the ball, getting in the quarterback's face, running down receivers. It was amazing.
"And guys are saying, 'No way he practices like that all the time.' I kid you not -- every day from then to now, it's been at that speed. And it's contagious. Now we're all like that."
So where the other defensive linemen initially thought Vanden Bosch was crazy, now, they're all crazy.
"Seeing him in film, in the D-line room, in the weight room, you say to yourself, 'This is a 10-year vet, and if he's practicing this hard, lifting this hard, why can't I do this, too?' " Jackson explained. "He encourages you to do it, not because he's doing it, but because that's what you're supposed to do. It rubs off on everyone.
"He sets the tone, and a big part of that is peer pressure. His style of play creates room for someone else to make a play. For me, personally, I want to practice like that, I want to play like that, it raises my level. That relentlessness rubs off, it makes everyone play that way."