A T-shirt changed John Cominsky’s life, a text from Dan Campbell kept him with Detroit Lions

Detroit Free Press

Last spring, John Cominsky got a T-shirt from his agent with a motivational message scrawled across the chest: 1 year of focus and hustle can change your life forever.

On Wednesday, Cominsky wore the same black T-shirt for a trip to the Detroit Lions practice facility, a testament to the garment’s truth.

Cut by the Atlanta Falcons at his request last May, Cominsky officially signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract to stay with the Lions on Wednesday. The deal includes another $1 million in incentives.

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“That was a mindset thing and I liked it,” Cominsky said of the shirt. “I put it on and I felt a little extra edge when I was working out and a little extra edge when I was walking around. I said I need about 10 more of those cause I’m going to be wearing them all year long, and here we are full circle. Signing the contract’s going to change my life and it’s true. So I hope it’s a testimony to anyone that they can just put their head down for 365 days and know that their life can change.”

A bit player with the Falcons most of his first three NFL seasons, Cominsky played far and away the best football of his career last fall.

He set career-highs in sacks (four), tackles (30) and quarterback hits (12), and emerged as a key figure on the Lions defensive line, with the team going 9-3 in games he played and 0-5 when he was not on the field.

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Cominsky made a brief foray into free agency this week, where he drew interest from other teams he declined to name. But he said Wednesday he always wanted to return to the Lions and got a text message from head coach Dan Campbell that helped seal the deal.

“Detroit was it all along,” Cominsky said. “We wanted to be here. We wanted to get what we deserved and we also wanted to be here at the same time, so there was a little balance there and Detroit called us with something solid and Coach Campbell sent me a text saying, ‘I’m dying to have you here,’ and I told my wife, ‘That’s it, I’m going to Detroit.’ So here we are.”

A part-time starter last year, Cominsky should play a similar role this fall on a defensive line that projects to be the strength of what should be an improved Lions defense.

Aidan Hutchinson, the runner-up for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and fellow rookies James Houston and Josh Paschal combined for 19.5 sacks last season, and the Lions will return nine of 11 defensive starters after re-signing linebacker Alex Anzalone and nose tackle Isaiah Buggs this week.

Cominsky, 27, said he’s “excited” about what the Lions have accomplished in free agency so far, signing two cornerbacks (Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley) to compete for starting jobs and adding former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery.

And as life-changing as his new contract is, he promised it won’t change the way he plays.

“A lot of guys are motivated in a way that it’s the chip on your shoulder, you’re counted out and guys are motivated by that negativity and now this is different,” he said. “This is a belief from the whole organization. A lot of people saying I believe in you and I want to see you succeed. So it’s a different type of motivation for me and it feels more pure. It’s all positive and it’s really exciting to prove everyone right, prove these coaches, the organization, the fans, family, myself, prove them right that I’m worth every bit of that contract, so very motivated moving forward.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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