DETROIT – The Detroit Lions surprised a terminally ill Sterling Heights man with the gift of a lifetime in recognition of his work and mission.
Local entrepreneur Steven Strickland, 28, is behind Giant Helmet, a group that designs and creates massive, custom sports helmets for professional sports teams. They’ve made giant helmets for display for the Detroit Tigers and Lions, and a giant goalie mask for the Red Wings, among several others.
Strickland’s goal is to leave behind a legacy with his giant helmets before cystic fibrosis takes his life. With the help of his cousin, an artist, Strickland has been making helmets that will make memories, for others and for himself.
“These helmets are my way of staying alive,” Strickland said. “When I’m gone, I know that these helmets are not gonna be gone -- they’re gonna be there. So, if I can take the time that I’ve got left and use that to create something that’s timeless, I want to do that.”
A giant helmet is already in place at Ford Field, on display on the second floor of the concourse. But when the Detroit Lions heard the story behind the helmet, they asked Strickland to come back to the arena for a special fan appreciation event.
On game day, the Lions had Strickland walk out onto the field, where he could be recognized by the tens of thousands of people there.
“They’re going to let me go on the field and wave to the crowd,” Strickland said beforehand. “I could not be more excited to do this.”
But what the man didn’t know was that the appreciation was going to be so much more than a smile and a wave.
While on the field, the Detroit Lions presented Strickland with two all-expenses-paid tickets to the 56th Super Bowl scheduled for Feb. 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California.
Strickland couldn’t have been more excited, but he also recognized the gift as an opportunity for his work.
“This is incredible! I’m going to the Super Bowl!” Strickland said. “It’s overwhelming to have this kind of recognition. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and to have something like that happen, it really makes it worth it.”
“This gives me an opportunity, a bigger platform to spread a message of positivity,” he added.
While the man’s mission was to leave a lasting legacy with helmets and memories, what he has really done is write a new playbook for those leaving this world too soon.
“If you let your mind fight for you and you believe that you can do something, you absolutely can,” Strickland said. “So, for the Detroit Lions to give me this type of recognition and show appreciation for this art -- I’m more motivated than ever to keep sticking it to (cystic fibrosis) and bringing this art out there.”
Watch the full report in the video above.