Growing up in Chicago, Kenny Golladay said he just wanted the Bears to win.
That’s over now.
“Being from Chicago, you’re pretty much a home team guy, but it wasn’t just, ‘Definitely have to beat the Lions or have to beat the Green Bay Packers,’ ” said the former NIU receiver, who was selected by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the NFL draft Friday night. “It was pretty much I just want the Bears to win, but that’s totally different now.”
Golladay was selected 97th overall by the Lions, who need to replace Anquan Boldin at receiver.
Golladay said the coaching staff already has talked to him about his chances of becoming the third receiver.
“Coach (Robert) Prince definitely talked to me about it, the challenge that’s ahead of it,” Golladay said at a news conference Friday night. “I’ve taken on many challenges, and I’m just ready to take on the next, just ready to put my best foot forward and go to work.”
Golladay said he doesn’t know too much about the Detroit offense but is excited about the chance to learn.
“I know Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback, and I’m just willing to learn more about the offense,” Golladay said. “I’m not too familiar with it, but I’m definitely ready to learn.”
In a video released by the Lions, Stafford said he was excited about the Golladay pick.
“It’s exciting to get guys that play on our side of the ball,” Stafford said. “He’s a big guy, I know. Ran a good 40 time for a big dude. ... Our coaches and front office told me about him, I watched some tape on him, excited to get to work with him.”
In only two seasons with NIU, Golladay leaves the school sixth all-time with 160 receptions, fifth with 2,285 receiving yards and tied for eighth with 18 touchdown catches. He is the only player in NIU history with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
He put up those numbers with a parade of different quarterbacks after starter Drew Hare and backup Anthony Maddie went down for the season with injuries.
“I can’t control nothing that’s going on in the quarterback room,” Golladay said. “I’ve just got to make it easier for the quarterback, and that’s getting open. So if we have a younger quarterback back there, I put more pressure on myself to make sure I get open. I want to make it easier for him, and that’s all I pretty much worked on. And that’s all our receiver coach told the receiver room, too. We have a younger quarterback back there. We have to make it that much easier for him, and that’s pretty much what I focused on.”
Golladay was the fourth Huskie to be taken in the first three rounds of the draft since 2005 – running back Garrett Wolfe went to the Bears in the third round, 93rd overall, in 2007, and linebacker Larry English and defensive back Jimmie Ward were first-round picks in 2009 by the Chargers and in 2014 by the 49ers, respectively.
The selection came after Golladay was under-recruited out of St. Rita. He didn’t have an NCAA Division I offer and ended up at North Dakota. He transferred to NIU, and now he’s off to the Lions.
“I was really just a guy who fell under the radar, really,” Golladay said. “I didn’t get no offers out of high school. I got one offer, and that was North Dakota, and I just had that drive to play football. I’ve been playing all my life. Even though I’m from a big city like Chicago, I knew I wanted to play football, so I took that path to North Dakota, and I did what I had to do pretty much.
“I played my true freshman year. I played my sophomore year, and stuff pretty much happened. The coaches ended up getting fired, so I made my own highlight tape. I gathered all my film, made my own highlight tape and sent it to my coach, Todd Kuska at St. Rita, and just told him to do me a huge favor, and that was to just send my tape out to the college coaches that were coming in. And he jumped right on it, man. I feel like it only took him a week, maybe two.
“I sat there and talked to my family, and they were going to have my back through thick and thin, man. I made that decision. I was blessed. I stood out that 2014 season, 2015, 2016 just hit the ground running.”
The Lions visit the Bears on Nov. 19.