Last time Darren Fells played for the Lions, Jim Caldwell was head coach. Eric Ebron was starting at tight end. And T.J. Hockenson was a freshman at Iowa.
Four years later, Fells is back, with the intention of making Hockenson better than ever.
"I’ve always felt like T.J.'s been an extremely athletic and talented player," Fells said Thursday as the Lions concluded minicamp. "So being able to come in here and mentor him a little bit is an awesome thing."
Detroit signed Fells to a one-year deal in May to cover for the sudden retirement of fellow tight end Josh Hill. He returns to the Lions after a strong stint with the Texans, totaling 11 touchdowns in two seasons after producing 10 through his first five.
But Fells isn't necessarily here to find the end zone. He's here to help Hockenson find it -- and then help him celebrate.
"I feel like he’s more of a (receiving) tight end and I’m more of a (blocking) tight end where I can go in there and do a little bit more of the dirty work. I had the conversation with him already where if we’re both in there, I’ll be like an extra lineman for him to give him time to get open so he can bump that touchdown total up to 12. And then I can help him with his celebrations -- because those are pretty bad right now," Fells said with a laugh.
12 touchdowns would be quite the jump for Hockenson. But it's not out of the question after he took a big step forward in 2020, doubling his receptions and yards and tripling his touchdowns to make the Pro Bowl. If he doubles his touchdowns in 2021, he'll hit Fells' target.
And maybe hit a few moves in the end zone.
"We haven’t discussed it too much," Fells said. "His whole big thing was he just catches it and falls down and pops up and throws the arms up. Anything is better than that. We talked about seeing what his dance moves are. I haven’t taken him out to a club or anything due to COVID, so we’ll see if he has those kind of moves. But right now we’re just trying to figure out what looks good on him."