By: Will Burchfield
Eric Ebron wears a new pair of cleats for every game. This Sunday, when the Lions take on the Minnesota Vikings, he'll sport a pair of black camouflage cleats to honor his father and grandfather, both of whom were marines.
And he doesn't care if he gets fined for it by league commissioner Roger Goodell.
"If I do, I do. But they're black and they're supporting a cause for military appreciation. If he wants to fine me, be my guest," Ebron said. "I got it."
Ebron savors the opportunity to honor his grandfather. Though he passed away due to Parkinson's disease when Ebron was young, Ebron remembers how much his mother's father meant to the family.
"He was our rock. Our grandmother passed away really young so he kind of held down the family. He had a bunch of kids and those kids had a bunch of us bad kids, including me," Ebron laughed, "so he was it for us. No one was ever not excited to see our grandfather or their father or their great grandfather. That's just what he's done for our family."
Ebron said he's received tons of positive feedback from his relatives for the way he pays tribute to a man who all of them loved. Though his grandfather is no longer alive, his spirit lives on through those he left behind.
"I feel like I'm making a statement to our family, man, like he's here with us. He's always here with us," Ebron said. "And I feel like I wouldn't be where I am without him.
"I feel like most of my family members would feel like they aren't where they are without watching him go through what he's gone through: fighting and just trying to be around us, fighting (Parkinson's) and fighting for the country. So I feel like it was important for us. He made us all believe in the things that we can do or what we wanted to do."
In Week 13, in accordance with NFL rules, Ebron will wear a specially-designed pair of cleats to raise awareness for Parkinson's. Afterward, he plans to auction them off to raise money to help fight the disease.
"Like I said, that's what my grandfather had when he passed away. That was a big divot in his life. So a lot of things that I do contribute to that disease," Ebron said.
Ebron reached out to his shoe designer about two weeks ago regarding the cleats he'll wear against the Vikings.
"I pitched the idea about military appreciation. It doesn't take nothing but a couple days (for him) to actually do it and he'll ship it the next day," Ebron said.
Asked to hold them up for reporters to see, Ebron politely declined, and then, with one cleat peaking through his travel bag, he zipped the bag up tight and flashed a smile.
"Y'all will see 'em on game-day," he said.
The NFL mandates that a player's cleats conform to his team's colors.
"All of my cleats will always stay within our guidelines. Our guidelines are bleak cleats with our team colors, which is honolulu blue or silver. So all my cleats (match) those exact colors," Ebron said.
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