Re­turn to roots

St. Rita, prod­uct Gol­la­day back in town as key re­ceiver for Lions

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By Colleen Kane ck­[email protected]­bune.com Twit­[email protected]

Lions coach Matt Pa­tri­cia said this week that wide re­ceiver Kenny Gol­la­day’s skill set has “im­proved dras­ti­cally” in his sec­ond sea­son in the NFL.

On Sun­day when the Lions ar­rive at Sol­dier Field for the first of two meet­ings with the Bears in 12 days, Gol­la­day will try to show­case that growth in front of his home­town fans.

Gol­la­day, a grad­u­ate of St. Rita High School, be­came quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford’s lead­ing re­ceiver when the Lions traded Golden Tate to the Ea­gles on Oct. 30. His 33 catches for 523 yards over eight games put him ahead of the pro­duc­tion of deep threat Marvin Jones and run­ning back Theo Rid­dick.

And that has the Bears’ at­ten­tion.

“He’s a re­ally good re­ceiver with or with­out Tate there,” Bears de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Vic Fan­gio said Thurs­day. “Tall guy who can run, big catch ra­dius and they want to get him the ball. He is a re­ally good re­ceiver.”

Out of high school, Gol­la­day first played at North Dakota be­fore trans­fer­ring to North­ern Illi­nois, where he be­came the first player in school his­tory with back-to-back 1,000yard re­ceiv­ing sea­sons.

The 6- foot- 4, 213pounder was a Lions third-round pick in 2017, and he had 28 catches for 477 yards and three touch­downs in his rookie sea­son.

The off­sea­son improve­ment Pa­tri­cia spoke about showed up this year when he had 27 catches for 428 yards and three touch­downs over his first five games. But as op­po­nents have fo­cused on stop­ping him, Gol­la­day has just six catches on seven tar­gets for 95 yards over the Lions’ last three games.

That in­cludes three catches for 46 yards Sun­day against the Vik­ings in the first game since Tate was traded.

“Early in the year it­was good to have his pro­duc­tion and good for him to see some of the things he saw from dif­fer­ent de­fenses.” Pa­tri­cia said Wed­nes­day on a con­fer- ence call with Chicago re­porters. “Like we talk (about) all the time, as sea­sons go on and cov­er­ages change and teams change and there’s a lit­tle bit more film out there that teams study and kind of take a look at you, the sea­son gets harder.

“And it gets harder when you’re a player teams are look­ing at and try­ing to fig­ure out, you know, what is this guy and how does he play? He just has to con­tinue to learn and grow, con­tinue to de­velop. It’s part of the process.”

But Pa­tri­cia sees Gol­la­day work­ing daily to con­tinue that de­vel­op­ment.

“The best thing for me with Kenny is that his work ethic is out­stand­ing,” Pa­tri­cia said.

“He comes in ev­ery sin­gle day and works hard to try to im­prove. He un­der­stands he’s a young player and there’s a lot of this game he needs to learn. And that’s what he does. He just at­tacks it. Ev­ery sin­gle day. In an ef­fort to try to get bet­ter.”

HAN­NAH FOSLIEN/GETTY

St. Rita and NIU prod­uct Kenny Gol­la­day leads the Lions with 33 catches this sea­son after hav­ing 28 as a rookie last year.

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