How 3 years with Lions is turning Detroit into Penei Sewell’s ‘forever home’

The Lions and Penei Sewell have made such a perfect pairing that the OT is already talking about making Detroit his “forever home.”

Detroit Lions Penei Sewell Reacts to First NFL Preseason Game - Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions News, Analysis and More

Penei Sewell grew up in American Samoa, a long way—both physically and culturally—from Detroit.

But just before he walked into the media room Monday, days after signing a contract that made him the highest-paid offensive tackle in football, Detroit Lions general manager wanted to make sure he had a touch of home. He greeted Sewell with a pair of leis that the right tackle would wear to the podium.

“And that right there goes a long way to me,” Sewell said. “Just those little gestures of him trying to understand where I’m from and understand the culture and he knows how much this meant to me.”

It’s a small symbol of what has made Sewell the right fit for Detroit, and Detroit the right fit for Sewell. Those gestures started from the minute the Lions drafted Sewell and went absolutely insane in the war room.

“The way they all reacted. And I’ll never forget that,” Sewell said. “That’s something that’ll always stay with me—in my heart, in my mind, and in everything I do. And I give my heart and soul to this team, to this organization. to the city.”

Sewell has certainly followed through on that promise. In just three years, he’s vaulted his name into the conversation of best tackle in football. He’s earned back-to-back Pro Bowl honors, was named first-team All-Pro in 2023, and earned PFF’s highest grade of all offensive linemen last season.

You may remember that the connection to the Lions started early with Sewell. One of the quirky draft day stories on him was that he grew up a fan of Detroit, playing as them on Madden and growing up a big Calvin Johnson fan. That, along with the warm embrace he has gotten from fans in Detroit, has made his transition to Detroit resident a lot easier than some other drafted players experience.

The Detroit Lions made a major mistake not trading Calvin Johnson - Pride  Of Detroit

“You hear all the stories about coming into the league and how hard it could be, with all the pressure and living up to expectations and all that,” Sewell said. “But I just came in with the mindset of just giving it my all and hopefully everything else will fall in line. I think that’s what’s happening.”

What also helped was the immediate vibes between Sewell and coach Dan Campbell. Their shared vision of passion and hard work made Detroit a natural home for Sewell.

“Shout out to Coach Campbell and Brad and what they’ve been able to build,” Sewell said. “It’s something that I’ve aligned my values with, and I believe it (with my) whole heart if you do it a certain way, that it’s a different type of energy that players gravitate to when they start looking from the outside in.”

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In his short time in Detroit, Sewell has done a lot of growing up. He may only be 23 years old, but he now has two kids—his 15-month-old son Malakai and a newborn daughter Mila. Now, he hopes his story can help motivate them on wherever their life journey takes them.

“Just to be able to share that with Malakai and my baby girl. Just kinda showing them a dream,” Sewell said. “It doesn’t have to be this one right here, just showing them that a dream is possible and you are literally capable of doing anything you set your mind to, and I hope I’m an example of that, and I try to do that every day.”

The Lions didn’t just hand Sewell record-breaking money, they also invested a lot of time into his new contract. Combined with a hidden fifth-year extension in the new contract, Sewell is now under contract through the 2029 season—a full six years in Detroit. That gesture is not lost on him, and he sees a path to being here for good.

“It’s a place that could be my forever home. And I’m so comfortable here, stay here in the offseasons. I don’t go nowhere.”

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