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From the Plains to the pros: Nick Fairley

Editor's note: Auburn has a rich history of sending players to the NFL. With that in mind, beat writer Ryan Black takes a look at each former Tiger that finds himself on an NFL roster (or should be once free agency and training camps shake out). The series will begin with those who have already been in the league for more than one season and conclude with the latest crop of players to land in the NFL, either through the draft or as an undrafted free agent.

Nick Fairley, Detroit Lions

Position: Defensive tackle

Drafted: Taken with the No. 13 overall pick by the Detroit Lions in 2011

Career stats (through three seasons): 38 games played (22 starts); 84 tackles; 12.5 sacks; four forced fumbles; three fumble recoveries

2014 outlook:

A quick glance at the stats above would represent a decent three-season output for most players. But more is expected of Fairley. Far more. To this point in his career, one of the most naturally gifted defensive linemen you'll ever see hasn't played up to expectations. That's part of the reason Detroit declined his fifth-year option, meaning he'll be a free agent at the end of this season. Lions general manager

Martin Mayhew

said the decision was an attempt to motivate the former Auburn star.

To that end, it has worked.

Fairley has dropped between 25-30 pounds this offseason — going from 320 pounds to around 290 and change — and according to reports, has looked like the player Detroit envisioned when it drafted him: Explosive and the perfect complement to fellow disruptive tackle

Ndamukong Suh

. Fairley will be a linchpin in the Lions' 4-3 scheme as they make a push for the playoffs.

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