A grand sendoff is a rare thing in professional sports. It’s even more unusual when it doesn’t involve a player or coach announcing their retirement.
But Matthew Stafford’s imminent departure after 12 seasons as the Detroit Lions quarterback is being handled uniquely by a franchise that hasn’t always handled its high-profile breakups with dignity in the past.
Ahead of the official announcement Stafford has been traded to the Los Angeles Rams — a deal that was agreed upon more than a month ago and expected to be announced on Thursday — the Lions posted an emotional nine-minute farewell from No. 9.
The video opens with Stafford wearing all black against a similarly black backdrop. He takes a seat as somber music plays in the background.
“I’ve been thinking about how it all started,” Stafford says as the video cuts to highlights from youth football, through high school, to his time at the University of Georgia, before ultimately replaying his selection as the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
“This city welcomed me with open arms,” Stafford said. “I’m talking about Detroit. It’s special here. Anybody that gets to experience Motown knows what I’m talking about. The history, the attitude the people. Detroit stands alone.”
Stafford goes on to thank the fans, as well as his teammates and coaches, while his greatest highlights are shown — from throwing a touchdown with a separated shoulder against the Cleveland Browns as a rookie, to hurrying his offensive to the line before punching it in on a late-game sneak to beat the Dallas Cowboys, to besting the Chargers on Christmas Eve in 2011 to secure the franchise’s first playoff berth in a dozen years.
“I can go on and on about the each of the football memories I’ve made here, but the connection I made with the people of Detroit will forever mean just as much,” Stafford said as the video pivots to his contributions to the community.
The video closes with Stafford symbolically leaving his jersey on the bench at Ford Field.
“Thank you for everything Detroit,” Stafford said. “Sincerely, No. 9.”