As the Lions top blocking back, Cory Schlesinger leads with his face, head up, eyes on his opponent. That smashmouth style has resulted in his breaking some 200 face masks in nine NFL seasons--a jaw-dropping rate of more than one a game. "Most guys hardly do anything to a face mask," says Lions assistant equipment manager John Brown. "To have him bending them the way he does is remarkable. I'd be shocked if anyone else is breaking as many."
Brown began saving Schlesinger's mangled masks in 2002, collecting 23 that season and 22 in '03. Last year Schlesinger, 32, was contemplating the mound of metal when he had an epiphany. "I thought I might as well make some money for charity," he says.
Taking the challenge head-on, Schlesinger, who's married and has two daughters, converted his garage to a wood shop in which he transforms the masks into plaques. A seasoned craftsman--he studied welding and woodworking at Nebraska--Schlesinger spends two hours on each piece, staining, sanding and painting the wood base before attaching a face mask and a metal plate inscribed with the year of its retirement. He donates each mounted mask to Detroit Lions Charities, which benefits local causes. So far, the creations have fared well at auction, drawing as much as $350. Says Schlesinger, "I think people like them because they are unique." --Amanda Cherrin
JAMES SCHNEPF (SCHLESINGER)