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  • Justin Rogers (The Detroit News)

Igwebuike scores TD, finds it a 'blessing' getting a shot at running back with Lions

Pittsburgh — In the past year, Godwin Igwebuike got two calls. The first, for the devout Detroit Lions player, was divine in nature.

While taking an evening walk around his family's farm in Pickerington, Ohio, to clear his head and talk to God, Igwebuike said he had a revelation that he was going to be asked to play running back.

It hardly made sense. Sure, he played running back in high school, but had long since converted to defensive back, which he played at Northwestern and during his three-year NFL career.

But two weeks before the start of training camp, Igwebuike's phone rang. He checked the called ID, saw it was coach Dan Campbell and admittedly panicked.

Often, those calls are letting a player know he's going to be released. Igwebuike knows a thing or two about that living on the edge of rosters. Since going undrafted in 2018, the Lions are his fifth NFL stop. He also squeezed in a couple months with the Seattle Dragons of the ill-fated XFL reboot.

But Campbell wasn't calling to cut Igwebuike. No, he wanted to try and experiment, moving the defensive back to the backfield. And who was Igwebuike to deny his previous spiritual conversation? He quickly accepted the challenge.

"It's been intense," he said. "It's also been really cool. It's been a blessing. I mean, you know, coach called me, told me, 'We think your best shot's at running back.' I'm like, 'Let's do it.'

"They believed in me," Igwebuike continued. "They're like, 'We think you got it in you. We see the potential. So go out there and be yourself. Play loose.' So to see it, just the grind over the last few weeks, just them building up my confidence and that's still a journey I'm on. But it definitely feels more natural, even than safety, and I think that's what they saw."

On Saturday, a night much didn't go right for the Lions in a 26-20 preseason loss to the Steelers, Igwebuike got to enjoy a special moment. With the team down 23-0, he took a handoff on the first play of the fourth quarter, lowered his shoulder, bounced off a defender and crossed the goal line for a 7-yard touchdown.

"I didn't even expect to be that pumped," he said. "I was kind of thinking about what I'm going to do if I score. I couldn't really think of nothing, but it just came down to the moment. I'm like, yo, if I see a hole, I'm hitting it as hard as I can, just letting the natural instincts and ability to take over, not overthinking it. Let's just see what happens.

"When I saw the hole, just put my foot in the ground," Igwebuike explained. "I was a couple yards away. I'm like, I don't care who shows up, I'm getting in the end zone. Thankfully the guys up front, man, when they were blocking their butt off, it was incredible."

Igwebuike finished with 21 yards on seven carries, including the touchdown. It was a cool moment, but he knows he's got a long way to go if he wants to continue his NFL career in Detroit.

"It's crazy to really think about it," he said. "But I've just been walking by faith and not by sight. Even when it felt like, you know, I wouldn't get the call again. Yo, we're going to keep pushing. There's a vision there and I'm gonna keep pressing in. To see it come around like this, it low-key feels surreal. It feels like a dream for real, but, this is just the beginning, you know?"

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