My oh my, how things have changed in the span of a year. It was little over a year ago that the Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley was arrested for the second time in less than two months for driving under the influence. He was an embarrassment to himself and the organization and the state of Alabama. He and a few other players put the Lions in the position of being a national joke for their combined seven – count’em, seven, offseason arrests. Here were the Lions finally erasing some of the stigma by making the playoffs for the first time this century, only to have some knuckleheads give the rest of the league a reason to still laugh at them. Fast forward to now and guess who’s emerging as the vocal leader of the Detroit Lions defense? The very same Nick Fairley.
By all accounts of the OTA’s that just ended last week, Nick Fairley was buzzing around the practices like Tinkerbell. He was the loudest presence in the building and was constantly urging other players during drills. Says Justin Rogers of Mlive.com:
“Defensive tackle Nick Fairley has always been an excitable guy, but he’s taken his energy and intensity up a notch this offseason and it’s rubbing off on his teammates. During individual drills, Fairley could be seen and heard issuing challenges, only to back up his talk. After finishing his set, he often stayed close, cheering on his teammates.”
Mlive’s Anwar Richardson added this:
“Fairley was very vocal during every practice. He routinely challenged teammate Ndamukong Suh during individual drills at practice – and routinely won. The former first-round draft pick was high energy from start to finish.”
Ndumakong Suh’s personality strikes me as a lot like Lions great Barry Sanders. They lead by example, they’re just not the rah rah kind of guys that stir up teammates. Louis Delmas was the vocal leader for awhile, but you have to be able to stay on the field to qualify for the job. Delmas looks shaky already and may not start the season with the rest of the team.
The job title of being the “Leader of the Lions Defense” is wide open, and Nick Fairley is making his claim for the title. He boldly stated a awhile back that he and Suh were the “Best defensive tackle duo in the League”. Nobody laughed. The NFL.com promptly came out with an article that backed up that claim. Fairley also stated “I expect big things”, “I am going to say we are going to the Super Bowl because I am competitive and that is what I want for the team and it is one of the goals. I am sure we are going to take it game by game and day by day.”
Nick Fairley has made some mistakes in the past, and that’s where they’re going to stay–in the past. It seems this new version of Nick Fairley is all about “Team”. He knows now that he possesses the talent to be the leader on a Super Bowl team, and he intends to follow that vision. At least, that’s the way Nick Fairley sees it.