DETROIT – On this day, the roaring crowds at Ford Field are replaced by giggling little girls cheering “go Lions.”
The normally packed stadium is essentially empty as Matthew Stafford and his family have come to say goodbye. The now former Detroit Lions quarterback still can’t wrap his head around it.
“It’s crazy. Obviously, you know, thinking this will probably be last time I’m here for at least a long time,” he said. “I have a lot of great memories here. A lot of tough ones too.”
Ford Field and Detroit have been home to Matthew and his wife, Kelly Stafford, for 12 years.
“Life as I know it now, you know, came to be here in Detroit, you know, married, kids. All of it,” said Matthew.
Kelly is looking back and getting a little emotional as well.
“I think the first time I came here I was 19, and to look at it possibly for the last time I feel like I don’t know, I’m pulling a lot back,” she said.
Matthew said there are games he will never forget.
“I still remember, we played the Chargers in 2011, and made the playoffs, clinched the playoffs here at home for the first time in a bunch of years and I will never forget the crowd,” he recalled.
Is there one moment he wished he could change?
“Oh there’s plenty of those. I mean, the one that comes to mind when you say that right off the bat would be, you know, when the Packers hit that Hail Mary on Thursday night after we won on Thanksgiving,” he said.
When we’ve watched him fall and get right back up, just like Detroit the city he adopted, we learned Matthew is tough. He is resilient. We may not have always liked the outcome, but man did we appreciate the fight.
I asked him how hard the decision to leave was on him.
“Oh, probably the hardest conversation I’ve ever had in my life, you know, you know it was, it was a really tough, really tough deal. I’ve got to give the Lions a bunch of credit for the way they handled it. I have all the respect in the world for the Ford family,” he said.
I asked him if this was his decision.
“It was mutual, you know, it was something that I think we both talked about, and I think they wanted to see where my head was and I obviously expressed that to them and you know they understood,” he said.
FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2020, file photo, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes the ball during the second quarter of the team's NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn. The Lions are trading Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for quarterback Jared Goff, two future first-round picks and a third-round pick, a person with knowledge of the deal tells The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Saturday night, Jan. 30, because the deal has not been completed. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen, File)
Leaving for LA
Stafford’s new city is Los Angeles, and his new team is the Rams. He is still surprised at how the trade worked out.
“It was honestly, you know, one of the two teams I didn’t think was going to be able to make it happen, if they wanted to even.” he said. “The fact that they wanted to was huge, and the fact that they were able to, I think you have to give a lot of credit to the Rams organization but also the Lions as well in being creative and figuring out a way to get it done.”
Professionally, Detroit is all Stafford has known. “The D” has become home, but it’s the people and the fans who both cheered and, yes, sometimes booed, who will always hold a special place in his heart.
“Everywhere we go in the community, you know it’s a people giving us well-wishes and that means the world to us,” he said.
Kelly Stafford and Matthew Stafford in an Instagram post on Jan. 25, 2021.