The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Leopards join NFL

Safety DaRon Gilbert goes for a tackle against Lehigh in 2022. (Photo by Rick Smith for GoLeopards)

Former Leopards DaRon Gilbert and Steven Stilianos signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents this week, with Gilbert joining the Detroit Lions and Stilianos, the Tennessee Titans.

“Going into the draft, I got a call from the Lions and I was just hoping to replicate the success I’ve had over the past four to five years of my football career,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert played four years at Lafayette as a safety and linebacker and graduated last May before heading to Northern Illinois University for his fifth year of eligibility. After a five-year college career, Gilbert will return to his hometown of Detroit.

“Being able to play for your hometown team in front of people that you grew up with, and obviously playing with some people that I’ve watched on TV, it’s just awesome,” Gilbert said.

The Lions have undergone a culture change, winning the NFC North for the first time in team history and advancing to the NFC championship. Gilbert looks to join the Detroit culture of “grit.”

“I’m a relentless competitor,” Gilbert said. “I play hard every single play, I play ’till the whistle is blown. I feel like that’s what the Detroit Lions are looking for and why they’ve been so successful.”

“I think that this is going to be a perfect marriage for a couple of years to come,” he continued.

Football coach John Troxell echoed Gilbert’s sentiments about his defensive tenacity.

“Daron is a physical safety and was a leader on our defense,” Troxell wrote in an email. “He is the epitome of what we want all our players to be, a real student of the game.” 

After a hectic draft process, Gilbert now prepares for an offseason of continued hard work.

“I’ve been able to talk to some of the guys on the team and a lot of the coaching staff,” Gilbert said. “They’ve been helping me get acclimated with what to expect moving into this process.”

Tight end Steven Stilianos looks to make a move down the sideline against Lehigh in 2021. (Photo by Rick Smith for GoLeopards)

The Lions’ leadership has outwardly prided themselves on not just constructing a team of good players, but good people, something Troxell is confident they built upon through the signing of Gilbert.

“As good of a player that he is, he is even a better person,” Troxell wrote. “We are so excited for him and his family as he continues to chase his dream of being an NFL player.”

“I’m just very thankful and blessed for this opportunity,” Gilbert said. “I really can’t wait to go out and put the pads on and represent Lafayette pretty well.”

In addition to Gilbert, tight end Stilianos represents another former Leopard joining the NFL. Stilianos’ Leopard career involved an All-Patriot League First Team selection in 2021 and 29 games played across four seasons, with a high of four touchdowns in the 2020 season.

Stilianos, in a message sent to The Lafayette after publication, wrote, “I’m a very excited for this opportunity with the Titans. It has always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL and it’s such a blessing that the dream is coming to a reality. I am especially grateful to Coach Garrett and the staff for bringing many quality student athletes to Lafayette College. I made lasting friends and memories during my time on College Hill and wouldn’t be where I am today without Lafayette.”

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Benjamin White
Benjamin White, Staff Sports Writer

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