INDIANAPOLIS — At 24 years old, Eric Ebron was about to have his first child, and he was going through all the stress that comes with such a life-changing event.
In the Detroit Lions’ first six games of the 2017 season, the former first-round pick was averaging just two catches and 17 receiving yards per game, and he had caught just one touchdown.
Definitely not the start Ebron had envisioned in a contract year — and he wasn’t exactly immune to the outside noise from fans who didn’t hold back in their opinions on the matter.
But on Oct. 22 — which happened to fall during the Lions’ bye week — Ebron announced the birth of his son, Oliver Dash Ebron:
And everything changed.
“I was 24 years old, man, and, like, I’m about to have a kid, so it was a lot of stress, it was a lot of pressure, a lot of things I was going through,” Ebron said this week in an appearance on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “And when he was born, it was just like something just clicked. And I don’t want to fail him, I don’t want to ever let him believe that I am the person that (some) people make me out to be. So I just went out there and tried to destroy anything in my path for him.
“And I damn sure did that.”
Ebron isn’t lying.
Over the final 10 games of the season, Ebron would average four catches and almost 50 yards per game, including a 10-catch, 94-yard performance Week 14 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a five-catch, 83-yard, one-touchdown game Week 16 against the Cincinnati Bengals, finishing the year with 53 receptions for 574 yards and four touchdowns.
Since that time, Ebron, for the first time in his career, would have a short stint on the open market as an unrestricted free agent. But it didn’t take long for new Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich, who envisioned a specific role for Ebron in his high-powered offense, to come calling.
Ebron signed with the Colts on March 19, and he’s brought his new family — not to mention his fresh perspective on life, as well as on football — with him.
“It’s a business. And they take it as that,” Ebron said when asked what he’s learned about the NFL through his first four years in the league. “You know, you can’t be soft — you’ve gotta be thick-skinned and you’ve got to come ready to work every day, because they will move on from you and they will move past you. And that’s kinda what I got out of it. And being in the league now going on fifth year, it just seems like you have to mature; you have to grow up and you have to learn how to do better each and every day, because like I said, they will move on from you.”
Heading into his first season with the Colts, Ebron’s new team certainly is excited about the prospects of what he brings on the field, a skillset that includes rare speed for a tight end, but also the size and strength needed for more traditional roles.
But Ebron’s light-hearted nature has also been a welcomed attribute in heavy doses throughout the offseason workout program.
He’s noticed that already with his new head coach.
“Frank is great, man,” Ebron said. “Frank, really — I think Frank comes to me and looks for a laugh, because things could be difficult for Frank. You know, it’s a new transition for him and he’s trying to get a whole organization off the ground from where they were last year. And he brought me in to also help him with that process. So me and Frank, we click, man, and he’s done great things with tight ends — as you look at Zach Ertz in his offense last year — he’s done great things, and I think he brought me in here to be that morale (guy), to be that effective player for him.”
Beyond Reich, however, Ebron also wants to stay fresh in the mind of the guy throwing the football.
And while that guy, Andrew Luck, continues to work his way back to the field after missing the 2017 season due to shoulder surgery, Ebron said he hasn’t been shy about letting his new quarterback know that whenever he does get to 100 percent participation, he’ll be ready.
“Well right now I just make as many jokes as I can just to stay relevant in his mind, because right now, obviously, he’s not throwing,” Ebron said of Luck. “And obviously me just getting here, I don’t really know much about what’s going on. But I know that he is Andrew Luck, and when Andrew Luck is healthy, he is one of the most dominant quarterbacks in this league. So I just look forward to playing with him, and whenever he gets healthy, I just tell him, ‘I’m 7-Eleven, man. I’m always open. So just find me.’”