It was his second season at Auburn -- his third collegiate season -- that Fairley exploded onto the scene. He had 60 tackles -- 24 for loss -- and 11.5 sacks. Auburn won the national title and Fairley was named the Lombardi Award winner as college football's best lineman.
Fairley, and the Lions, are hoping some of that third-year magic rubs off in the NFL.
"My first year at Auburn I was kind of figuring things out, and next thing you know, bam, it happened," Fairley said Saturday. "I'd say I took my first two years (with the Lions) kind of figuring things out, hopefully, third year, I'll break out."
We've seen how dominant Fairley can be in stretches. Last year, over a five-game stretch that began Nov. 11 at Minnesota and ended when he suffered the shoulder injury at Green Bay, he had four sacks, two forced fumbles and 23 tackles.
Fairley admitted that during those stretch of games his weight was down and he was in tip-top shape -- kind of like he is now.
However, the former No. 13-overall pick by the Lions in 2011 is also yet to finish a season due to injury. He missed a total of eight games with foot and shoulder injuries his first two seasons in the league.
To try and correct that trend, Fairley laid off the fast food and the fried food in the six weeks from the end of mini-camp June 13 to his training camp report date on July 25 and came into camp in the best shape of his young professional career.
"Nick has had a really good beginning of camp," said head coach Jim Schwartz. "He made an outstanding play today where he had a great chase play.
"He's been available for practice each day. He's been rushing well. He's been playing the run well. We're really looking forward to what he can do in there this year."
Fairley said his weight right now is between 306 and 310 pounds. He played last year between 315 and 320.
"Just coming into camp you want to be in shape to where when you hit camp you're just rolling," Fairley said. "That was one of my main focuses.
"I haven't really finished a season yet. This is going on my third year and that's one of my main focuses. Really, one of my big goals is to make it through all 16 this year."
Fairley has looked terrific so far. He and Suh as a defensive tackle tandem have been nearly unblockable through the first week of camp.
"I just feel like my first step is quicker," Fairley said. "Being able to chase the ball down."
That's certainly good news for the center of that Lions defense.
"We always knew what he could do," Schwartz said. "It's just going to have to be a consistent time on the field."