TE Fauria could see a larger role in Detroit

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Joseph Fauria wakes up every morning angry. All he needs to do is type his name into Wikipedia.

There is the reminder the Detroit Lions tight end will never be able to erase, no matter how many years he plays in the NFL or how many touchdowns he scores and celebratory dances he performs. There, once as a link and once in black type, is that message.

Undrafted in the 2013 NFL draft.

“You look at my Wikipedia page, it’s there,” Fauria said. “It’s a stamp. Might as well put it on my freakin’ forehead. It is there for the rest of my life and it bothers me every day.”

Soon after the draft ended, his uncle, former NFL tight end Christian Fauria, sent him a message. He told his nephew how many undrafted free agents make NFL rosters, and what the youngster needed to do and focus on to make the team. That challenge became an easy mantra for Joseph Fauria.

Use the anger you have from being passed over by every team in the league to show you absolutely belong. It is how Fauria ended up in Detroit, how he ended up making a roster and, with the injury to wide receiver Nate Burleson, how his role in the Lions’ offense could increase dramatically over the next two months.

Not that he hasn’t found a role already.

Fauria has two touchdowns in his first three games and might be the most popular No. 3 tight end in the league. Both of his touchdown dances brought him added exposure, and his “Bye, Bye, Bye” dance from Sunday’s victory over the Washington Redskins caught the attention of ‘N Sync member Joey Fatone, who tweeted at him Monday complimenting his moves.

This is all part of how Fauria conducts himself -- using a perceived slight to push him while also being able to show off his own fun side.

“That’s Joseph’s personality,” Christian Fauria said. “He’s a clown, OK, but he’s hard-working, serious about his craft, but he’s a clown. He has tons of personality.

“My thing is if that’s who you are, then you have to be that. Don’t try and be something you’re not. If you want to dance, dance. If people want to give you a hard time, who cares? Own it. People will respect you for being you instead of somebody that you’re not.”

Thus far, Joseph Fauria has done that.

He has become a large -- 6-foot-7 -- red-zone target for Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford. He has slowly picked up the nuances of blocking -- something he didn’t really learn a ton about at UCLA -- and is still finding his way as an NFL player.

“He obviously provides something a little bit different once we get down in the red zone with his size, his pure size,” tight end Tony Scheffler said. “Most of the time it’s a mismatch, and he’s done well with his role so far and I’m happy for him.”

That role could grow. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Tuesday the Lions have multiple options when it comes to replacing Burleson, out with a broken arm. The obvious one is sliding in one of the receivers -- Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham or, when he’s healthy, Patrick Edwards.

Broyles showed Sunday that some of his game has returned, when he caught three passes for 34 yards in his first game back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Being hit again for the first time even provided some relief.

“It was good doing that,” Broyles said. “You get experience from going out there and playing a live game. Mentally I’m ready to go. Just need to continue to grind it out in practice and continue to get better.”

The Lions' other option could be looking to Fauria or Scheffler to become even bigger passing weapons. Considering where Fauria was a month ago -- trying just to become an NFL player -- his ascent has been dramatic.

“I know what I’m capable of. I know that when my name gets passed on by 32 teams in April that I know what I can do and how I can answer back,” Fauria said. “Work toward a certain goal. I know I’m capable.

“I know when that ball was thrown it was coming into my hands no matter what. No one else is going to catch it besides me. It’s the kind of approach I do every game. Every ball that is in the air and every catch I have.”

He’s still learning, too. He and Christian both know he’s still a rookie -- and how much more there is for him to pick up on.

“He has no idea how much better he can get if he puts the time in,” Christian Fauria said.

With a potentially increased role comes potentially more targets from Stafford. More targets could mean more catches -- and that could lead to more touchdowns, and then to more dancing in the end zone.

Not bad for a guy nobody thought had NFL chops.

“If I’m blessed enough to have my name called and be in the end zone again, I would love to show off my dance moves again,” Fauria said. “But I’m just going to keep grinding away, keep proving I belong on this team, belong out there in the end zone.”