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Follett signs rookie deal

The Lions brain trust continued to motor its way through its flock of unsigned draft choices prior to the opening of training camp, inking Cal outside linebacker Zack Follett — the middle of the team's three choices in the seventh round — to a contract on Monday.

Adam Caplan of reported the deal, which was announced on the team's official Web site, was for three years.

Preceding Follett into the fold were No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford, seventh-round tight end Dan Gronkowski and sixth-round running back Aaron Brown.

While the terms of Follett's contract, which were not disclosed by the team, surely pale in comparison to the NFL-record deal signed by the team's quarterback of the future, the linebacker's resume may be the closest rival to Stafford's among the Lions' 2009 haul of draftees.

Expected to back up offseason trade acquisition Julian Peterson on the strong side, Follett will have to live up to his reputation as a punishing hitter and excel on special teams to make the squad.

It was likely Follett's tremendous production more than his collection of highlight-reel hits scattered about YouTube that got him drafted, but it was just as probably that same penchant for head-first hitting that pushed him as far down in the draft as he was selected.

A versatile player, Follett flourised at each of the three linebacker positions in the Golden Bears' 4-3 defense, then exploded as a senior when Cal switched to a 3-4, allowing him to play more going forward, rather than in reverse. He earned freshman All-American honors as a backup middle linebacker, Pac-10 honorable mention as a sophomore weakside linebacker, and second-team Pac-10 honors on the strong side, despite missing three games of his junior season with a (likely self-inflicted) neck stinger.

The kid who once was ejected from a Little League game at 8 years old for blowing up a catcher got to initiate plenty of similar collisions in college, ranking 10th on Cal's all-time tackle list (245), his 13 forced fumbles a school record and a tie for the Pac-10 mark. He also ranks fifth in Cal history with 51 tackles for loss and sixth with 23.5 sacks.

A Bednarik semifinalist as a senior, the 6-foot-2, 236-pound Follett had 10.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in his final collegiate season.

If the Lions do indeed stick to their stated plan to sprinkle 3-4 elements into the defense, Follett would give defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham a third player — along with Peterson and second-year defensive end Cliff Avril — ideally suited for rushing the passer from a two-point stance.

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