DETROIT, MICH. - Steve McClard couldn't believe his ears.
A senior design director at Nike, McClard and his team were on one of their weekly Thursday conference calls with the NFL's creative office some 18 months ago when a league representative said the Detroit Lions might be making a declaration to go through the process of redesigning their uniforms.
McClard, who grew up in Shelby Township rooting for the Billy Sims-era Lions, told his team hands off.
"The reaction to my team was no one’s touching this but me," McClard said Thursday at the Lions' new uniform unveil in front of about 3,700 season ticket holders at Ford Field. "What a dream to work on your hometown team years later after moving across country."
McClard said Lions president Rod Wood gave Nike instructions to "pay respect to the tradition and the heritage of the team but do it in a modern way," and he and his team tried do that by recapturing the Lions' Honolulu blue and silver color scheme in new home, away, throwback and color rush uniforms.
Wood said the team hopes to wear all four jerseys in the 2017 season, but won't decide which games to wear the throwback and Color Rush uniforms for until after the schedule comes out next week.
The Lions' Color Rush uniforms are a dark steel grey with white numbers trimmed in Honolulu blue, and replace the all-black uniforms the team unveiled but never wore last year. Typically, Color Rush uniforms are worn on Thursday night games, but Wood said the Lions could wear them at another time if they don't have a Thursday night game this year.
The Lions' throwback uniforms are similar to ones they've worn in the past. The solid Honolulu blue jerseys replicate ones the team wore in its inaugural season in Detroit in 1934, and there is no striping on the sleeves or numbers on the shoulders.
Wood said the Lions could wear the throwbacks on Thanksgiving, as they have traditionally done, or for another important primetime game.
The Lions' blue home jerseys feature silver numbers trimmed in anthracite. The right sleeve has a wide stripe stenciled with "Lions," while the left sleeve honors former owner William Clay Ford with "WCF" in front of blue and silver vertical bars.
The team's away uniforms feature traditional white jerseys with blue numerals, and they have the option to wear blue pants.
Wood said part of his desire in redoing the uniforms was to get rid of black from the team's color scheme. Former Lions general manager Matt Millen introduced black into the team's color scheme in the early 2000s, and the color has been synonymous with the losingest era in team history.
"I think the first thing was we wanted to get the black out of the uniforms and go back to the traditional Honolulu blue and silver, and that kind of led us to coming up with the creative ideas on what we could do to keep the Honolulu blue and silver but also modernize the look," Wood said. "The option of wearing blue pants on the road, which we did I think for a couple of years. That's different. And the Color Rush I think is very sharp. We didn't want to go with just our blue jerseys and blue pants. We wanted to go with something that was different but was part of our colors."
Lions tight end Eric Ebron said he preferred the team's all-black Color Rush uniforms to the steel grey ones, but he said he and other players love the look and feel of them overall.
"I'm in love because not only do we get to wear something new but we all get to walk into the locker room every Sunday and not expect the same traditional blue or white," Ebron said. "We can mix and match now. We have alternate colors, we finally brung back the throwback jerseys, we have a Color Rush jersey. We're excited. It helps boost the morale in our locker room. When you walk in you're not looking at the same thing, you're looking at something new so it should definitely help in all aspects of our game."
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