Detroit, The NFL Draft and More

The NFL in Detroit was amazing. But its so much more than what happens on the stage.

The 2024 NFL Draft, held in Detroit Michigan, set a new three-day attendance record for the event, claiming the title from Nashville, which had been holding onto the distinction since 2019. The Draft is more than just crazed fans and college athletes’ dreams coming true; its impact on the host city and those who ventured there is wide-reaching.

It is estimated that the draft generated $160 million in economic impact for the City of Detroit. That came from sold-out hotels, packed bars and restaurants, parking, ride shares, and other commerce. That’s no small deal for a city that declared bankruptcy back in 2013. Detroit had plenty of time to plan: the Campus Martius Park area was cleaned up; cracked sidewalks were fixed and flowers were planted as city officials and workers prepared Detroit for a crown jewel in the city’s campaign to be a destination for major events.

Detroit is well on its way: it recently hosted regionals for the NCAA Men’s Basketball March Madness tournament and will host the Final Four in a few years. The city hosted the NCAA Bowling National Championships just two weeks before the Draft. They hope to bring NBA and NHL All-Star games to the city in the near future, and perhaps even a Super Bowl.

On top of the Draft’s economic impact, there was a massive social impact as well. The NFL put on multiple events starting the Monday before and ending on Saturday. I was able to attend an event where the NFL and Lowe’s partnered with a local volunteer group to repair and improve a veterans’ living facility. It was great to see current Detorit Lions tight end Sam LaPorta and future draftee Drake Maye not only engage with the crowd, but get their hands dirty. It was a massive boost to the morale of the city and it left a mark on all involved.

The NFL also hosted events in which in-person prospects practiced football skills with members of the Special Olympics. They did book readings and visited cancer patients. Community service is a facet of the league that doesn’t get talked about enough.

One very cool event I was able to attend was put on by former Pittsburgh Steeler and Detorit native Jerome Bettis and his Bus Stops Here Foundation. They hosted a two-day conference that brought youth, parents, and coaches together to discuss a wide variety of sports topics, from how to be a better athlete to navigating the mental side of sports and future endeavors. The event, hosted in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan, brought out many big names including former players like Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, and Eddie George, as well as other media personalities like Jemele Hill and Adam Schefter. The kickoff event raised a significant amount of money through ticket sales and a silent auction featuring trips, signed memorabilia, and other pop culture items. In addition to the financial and social benefits of the event, the impact on the next generation of athletes on their journey will be far-reaching. Numerous players in the NFL have talked about their time playing after school as a youth at the Boys and Girls Club.


I could go on for days about the prospects selected and their potential for fantasy football. One of the coolest aspects of the draft for me was getting to be in the media sessions for post-draft press conferences. Getting to hear the players talk about family, life, and struggles really gives insights into them as people. It makes us want to root for them even more. It showed how the draft meant more to them than just finding out which team they are playing for. It’s about fulfilling lifelong dreams that their families sacrificed for, dreams that consumed incalculable amounts of time, energy, and effort to achieve.


There is also the social aspect of the draft. Having driven in from Wisconsin, I stayed with my cousin; getting to spend time with her and her friends Saturday night, which happened to be her birthday, showed me just how far the impact of the Draft reaches. People in the Detroit area who didn’t even know much about pro football took time out of their weekends to venture downtown and check out the event. They loved the atmosphere it brought to the city.  Despite the massive size of the crowd, it never felt cramped, and I have yet to hear a report of any negative incidents. I highly recommend going with a friend; I was able to spend three days there with three amazing men who brought much laughter and enjoyment to the experience. I was able to connect with others around the industry and share memorable moments. I met celebrities like WWE wrestler Kofi Kingston, who couldn’t have been more humble and kind. These are among the many memories that I and many others will leave Detroit with.

I talked to fans from all over who represented nearly all fan bases, young and old. All enjoyed what Detroit had to offer. They ran 40-yard dashes. They did passing drills. They stood in line for Eminem’s food truck and Mom’s spaghetti. They shopped, drank, laughed, and cheered. They brought their fandom for their NFL team and left with a better appreciation for Detroit and its people. A city steeped in the history of automotive innovation and music. A city that showed for a weekend in time that we can all get along. Whether you were part of One Pride, Bears Nation, Bills Mafia, or from DUUUUVAL! we all came and co-existed. It was truly magical.

The best decision the NFL has ever made was to start moving the draft. It has a long tradition at Radio City Music Hall in New York City but has since been held in Chicago, Philadelphia, Nashville, Dallas, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Kansas City, and now Detroit. Along the way, it left a lasting impact on the city and the people that lived and visited there. Next, it heads to Green Bay, Wisconsin for the 2025 NFL draft. If you have a chance to make it out to it, I highly recommend it. Between seeing the sights, meeting amazing people, and watching the players find an NFL home, you’ll witness a massive impact that reaches far beyond the game and the city itself.

Feature Image by Mike Miklius (@SIRL0INofBEEF on Twitter)

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