It took over a decade of playing in the NFL, but Ndamukong Suh was finally able to check off a massive box on his bucket list in the 2020 season, bringing home his first Super Bowl ring in his second season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With a prolific NFL resume, highlighted by postseason sacks with four different teams and filled with All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, the Super Bowl ring may have been the last accolade he needed to push him over the Hall of Fame threshold.
However, Suh doesn't think it should have taken him this long to win a Super Bowl, nor did he think that 2018 should have been the first season in which he reached the big game, when he was on the Rams. In a recent appearance on Shannon Sharpe's "Club Shay Shay" podcast from FOX Sports, Suh talked about how he felt as though the Lions were good enough to get to the biggest stage in football while he was with the team.
"I think the first year was a lot of growing pains and kind of getting guys that weren't really built for the winning ways to understand how to win, and kind of.... keeping that core group of guys, bringing that winning mentality in, which I've always expected to win each and every game," Suh said. "...We've got the Calvin Johnsons of the world, Matthew Stafford playing at a high level, amongst (Brandon) Pettigrews and great defense, DeAndre Levys, all those types of guys and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
"So I look at it from the standpoint where we, especially in 2014 when Jim Caldwell came in there, we should have definitely had a championship run at some point in time. And it was definitely disappointing that it ended the way it did and I didn't get a chance to play more in Detroit, but I understand that it's a business. I will forever be indebted to that city and I love that city to death and that's why I spend time back there."
Suh, who earned all three of his All-Pro selections in his five-year stint with Detroit from 2010 to 2014, says that his first stop on his flight after the Super Bowl LV parade was Detroit. One reason he loved his experience there so much? Coach Caldwell.
"I mean, there's so many positive words that I can say about him," Suh said. "He's just an amazing human being, just the way he carries himself, the way his wife carries herself, and them as a family. And then the way he teaches us and handles us as young men and grown men... and the way he set up the organization.
"And I was very surprised when he got fired, and to be the winningest coach in that history of that organization was definitely disappointing to see that, even though I wasn't there. I'm still close to him and reach out to him for guidance on certain things... that I need to work through, but yeah, Jim Caldwell is one of the best human beings I've ever been around, especially in football."
Matthew Stafford, who was recently traded to the Los Angeles Rams, shared a similar sentiment regarding his time under Caldwell, who coached the Lions to a 36-28 record from 2014 to 2017.
“Yeah, I loved playing for him,” Stafford said via the Detroit Free Press (h/t Zach Koons of The Spun). “I know that the Fords were trying to do the right thing. They were trying to make the next step. They were shooting their shots to try and make us what they thought we should and could be.”
“I still remember when he was coming in for his visit. I got a chance to sit down and talk with him. And he blew me away. I wasn’t expecting that. Just his presence. Unique. He’s a great person, and that came through when he talked and in how he treated people.”
It's a completely new era for Detroit Lions football, with Jared Goff and Dan Campbell set to lead the organization for the first time in the 2021 NFL season. Suh, on the other hand, is now a Super Bowl champion, and Stafford, in his first season with the Rams, is expected to be a top contender to bring home the Lombardi Trophy. However, neither player will forget the city in which they rose to stardom, though their feelings of fondness may be intertwined with feelings of disappointment.