ALLEN PARK, Mich. (WOOD) — Every time Kalil Pimpleton has stepped onto a football field in recent memory, it was clear he would be a key asset.
When he was a Big Red at Muskegon High School, he was a star player. He was recruited heavily to Virginia Tech and went there, but when it didn’t work out, he transferred to Central Michigan University. As a Chippewa, he was a star player in the Mid-American Conference for last three seasons. He had 2,131 receiving yards on 170 receptions, adding 12 touchdowns through the air and five on the ground.
While those numbers look great on paper, Pimpleton was not picked in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Detroit Lions, however, brought him in as an undrafted free agent.
Now every day feels like another test for Pimpleton, trying to pass to find a spot on the roster for his home state professional team.
“It does feel like a job interview, in a way,” Pimpleton said. “I have to prove myself here, have to gain the respect of my teammates. But every day, I’m working towards that, I’m taking it as a new challenge and trying to put in the work it takes to be successful.”
Pimpleton has been one of the last players to leave the field every day since OTA’s back in May, and it has not gone unnoticed within the Lions organization.
“It’s just instilled in me,” he said of staying on the field after practice. “I don’t really think about it as I’m the last one out there. I just love to grind and if I’m going to make it that’s what I have to do.”
The Lions receiver room has a lot of returning players and incoming ones that make it crowded.
Amon-Ra St. Brown ended last season on fire, setting himself up as the favorite to be the top WR in Detroit’s wideout room. He tallied eight or more catches in the final six games, earning 80 or more receiving yards in each contest with five total touchdowns. He is joined by new addition D.J. Chark from the Jacksonville Jaguars, who has shown promise in the NFL, and rookie from Alabama Jamison Williams, who is still coming back from his ACL tear and is not expected to be ready for week one. Returning players Quintes Cepheus and Kalif Raymond also are looking to earn minutes, as well as Trinity Benson, who the Lions traded for last offseason from Denver.
Needless to say, there is plenty of competition for who will make the roster and be a part of the Lions receiving corps.
That’s where being a jack of all trades comes in handy for Pimpleton. He is a proven solid kick returner, scoring three touchdowns on punts and kickoffs in his time at CMU. He has good hands and can use his quickness to beat defenders in open space while also having good vision in rushing. He will do whatever it is the Lions need of him to make this team.
“Not only the coaching staff but also my teammates at Central (Michigan) taught me how to be a family and work as a team,” Pimpleton said. “I carry that with me here. I learned how to be a leader in many ways. Right now, I’m trying to show I belong as a Detroit Lion.”
Even as a Michigander, the Lions weren’t necessarily Pimpleton’s favorite team growing up. However, as the home state team, he always cheered for them. What really made him want to join the Lions as a free agent for training camp was Lions head coach Dan Campbell and the way he coaches.
“Just the way (Campbell) talks to the players and goes about his business is something I really liked before I even got here,” Pimpleton said. “Since I’ve been with Detroit, it’s only gotten better. I love playing for someone who respects his team like he does.”
Pimpleton also said he wants continue to bring Detroit “on the come up” after a few tough recent seasons.
When asked before practice Thursday about the “same old Lions” quote many use to describe the losing ways of the franchise over the years, Campbell said that’s what fueled him to want to play here when he signed as a tight end with the Lions over a decade ago.
“Who doesn’t want to come here and change that?” Campbell wondered, speaking to reporters. “To be a part of the team that turns things around? I think that’s a motivating factor. Once you’ve gone through suffering, there can be a great triumph. It would be something special to be a part of.”
While Pimpleton still feels he has to prove himself to make this 2022 group, it’s that culture he wants to play in.
“These guys have a good thing going on here and I’m still trying to take it in being here,” Pimpleton said. “I’m ready to work every day for it.”