Originally written on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/14/14
Just over a year ago, Nick Fairley appeared to be quickly heading toward the NFL's wasted-talent pile. He had produced little during an injury-plagued rookie season and then got arrested twice - once for marijuana possession, and once for driving under the influence of alcohol and resisting arrest - in less than two months. The second incident, coming so soon after the first, suggested that the Detroit Lions' young defensive tackle just didn't get it and, ultimately, probably didn't care. Those perceptions, however, are changing. It can all turn again with one bad decision, but Fairley has shown signs of getting on the right track to live up to his star potential. "I see this as a breakout year for him," teammate Nate Burleson said. "He came in just happy to be here, with a pocket full of money. Now I think he understands that not only does he need to prove he's one of the top guys at his position, but we need him to be that. "He's starting to understand he's not just a small piece to a huge puzzle. He's a huge piece to a regular-sized puzzle." Fairley started to emerge last year when he made 5 12 sacks in 13 games before missing the final three weeks because of a shoulder injury. He played on a national-championship team in college at Auburn and expects to win, expects to be the best. That's why he made those bold predictions that the Lions are going to the Super Bowl and that he and Ndamukong Suh will be the league's top defensive-tackle duo this season. It's clear that Fairley is feeling more and more comfortable with his role. Perhaps as much as any player, he brought energy to the practice field during the Lions' off-season workout program. "I want to be that guy the team looks to when we're down," said Fairley, the No. 13 pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. "I'm going to be the guy, saying, 'Hey, it's not over,' that guy that's really going to pump everybody up. "That's what I was looking for this offseason, to just let guys know I'm going to be here for you guys. "Winning is good. It's never good losing. I'm trying to bring that environment to the locker room." Who knew a year ago that Fairley would be establishing himself as a leader? He's carried it off the field, too. Not only did he host the second annual Nick Fairley Community Kickball Tournament for youngsters on Belle Isle in May, Fairley also took his community service back to his hometown in Mobile, Ala., where both of his arrests occurred. Fairley's inaugural Lion Heart Charity Football and Cheerleading Camp, free to the children back in Alabama, was held last month. Fairley has a knack for interacting impressively with the kids, probably because he's just a big - 6-foot-4, 298-pound - kid at heart. But at age 25, he's slowly maturing in a lot of ways these days. If it continues - and if he can stay healthy, too - those concerns about where his career and his life were headed will disappear in the near future. "This will be a big year for him to be on the field consistently for us," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He hasn't been healthy enough to be on the field for a long enough time. That's his biggest challenge. It's availability. "(Matthew) Stafford wasn't on the field enough as a first- and second-year player. He seems to have put some of that stuff behind him. We need Nick to do the same thing."
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Mike Pettine considered benching Hoyer for Manziel

Percy Harvin speaks out: 'I'm not a perfect person'

Report: Kobe has prevented Lakers from signing top talent

Red Sox may be ready to move Yoenis Cespedes

Alleged details of War Machine's suicide letter released

Austin Davis says Rams security didn't recognize him

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

LeBron: Bulls are 'much better' than Cavs right now

Redskins to stick with Colt McCoy over Kirk Cousins

Rick Pitino: Louisville will beat FSU in football

Report: Rams considered favorites to move to LA

Kobe to Julius Randle: You’re an idiot if you (expletive) this up

Slava Voynov arrested on D.V. charge, suspended indefinitely

WATCH: Boxer viciously attacks referee at Euro Championships

WATCH: Salvador Perez hassles Lorenzo Cain at media session

Lane Kiffin trashed in Tennessee political ad

WATCH: Lawrence Timmons throws up on field during MNF

10 NBA players who could be traded by the All-Star break

WATCH: Jimbo Fisher gets annoyed, cuts interview short

WATCH: Les Miles has classic reaction to dumb question

WATCH: Tennessee coach tried to trip Ole Miss player?

News station congratulates Gary Payton for breaking TD record

Did Sidney Crosby troll Flyers fans with Halloween costume?

Why Dan Mullen is not leaving Mississippi State

12 amazing stats from Week 7

Lions News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Lane Kiffin trashed in political ad

Details of War Machine's suicide letter leaked

Angry Jimbo Fisher cuts off interview

Is Kobe's deal hurting the Lakers?

Tenn. coach tried to trip Ole Miss CB?

GGG continues his reign of terror

The 6 things that mattered this weekend in the premier league

News station congratulates Gary Payton for TD record

Ray Rice could be back by Week 10?

12 amazing stats from Week 7

World Series preview

Favre: I got calls about playing last season

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.