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Jace Billingsley impressing with his work ethic

Golden Tate and Jace Billingsley have been known to have some epic table tennis battles in Detroit's locker room. The two are among the top ping pong players on the team.

It turns out Tate's respect for Billingsley's abilities extend beyond the locker room's ping pong table and onto the football field.

The Lions are on the lookout for a third receiver behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., and Tate thinks Billingsley could surprise some folks this offseason with his ability.

View photos of the Detroit Lions offense in the weight room at the start of the offseason workout program.

"Jace is one that sticks out," Tate said. "Ten years from now I'll still think about Jace. He's a hard-working guy. He shows up early, leaves late, works his tail off in the weight room and makes it his mission to be the first one through the line in sprints."

Tate said Billingsley reminds him a lot of his younger self.

"He's shifty," Tate said. "He's very, very shifty. I think he has some running back in him. I think he might have played running back in college. Talented guy. I'm excited for him to get his opportunity in practice and go into the preseason. He made this team for a reason, and I hope to see him out there. I trust him. I think he's a heck of a player."

Tate even has a nickname for Billingsley: "The White Thunder."

Veteran Anquan Boldin, who served as the team's third receiver and main slot man last season, could do so again in 2017, as he is still undecided on where he'll play a 15th NFL season.

Next week's NFL Draft could be another place the Lions look to fill that role. Lions general manager Bob Quinn told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine in February that he thought this was a deep draft at receiver.

But players currently on the roster, like Billingsley, will get an opportunity to earn a role too.

Billingsley impressed in the preseason last year, when he led the Lions in receiving (12 catches for 146 yards and two scores), and showed some potential in the return game. He improved enough throughout the season on the practice squad that he earned a late-season call-up.

The Lions are looking not only for depth at receiver, but they're also in the market for a return man after Andre Roberts signed in Atlanta this offseason.

"I think he did a heck of a job for us last year. I think he grew as a receiver a lot throughout the year," quarterback Matthew Stafford said of Billingsley. "He played a little bit in college. He played some receiver and running back and kind of played all different positions.

"He's got to hone in on what he can do at the NFL level and has really worked on his craft. He works really hard. I've been up here in the offseason and he's been up here in the offseason. I've seen him running and catching tennis balls and all that kind of stuff. He does everything you want a pro to do. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully he goes out there and plays great. I know he's putting the work in to do it."

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