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O'HARA: Lawson thrives on competition

Nevin Lawson understands the cut-throat nature of competition in pro football.

Whether it's one-on-one competition on the field between a cornerback and receiver, or personnel moves that add talent and create competition for jobs, Lawson has done more than survive.

He thrives on it, and wouldn't have it any other way.

As Lawson begins his fourth season with the Detroit Lions, and his third as a full-time starter at right cornerback, it would be understandable for him to feel a sense of security.

That is not the case. Not even close.

Confidence should not be confused with complacency, and there is nothing complacent about the way Lawson plays or prepares.

He has a competitive drive in everything he does.

"I feel that comes from my mother and my father," Lawson said as the Lions began preparing for Friday night's third preseason game against the Patriots.

"My Pop (Clive) has always been a hard worker. He's a roofer. I'd see him get up early in the morning. My Mom (Jennifer), the same thing. She's a nurse.

"Everything I do, it's not just me. I play for the team. That's on the front (of his jersey). But I also do it for the last name on the back of the jersey."

Lawson, who was drafted by the Lions in the fourth round out of Utah State in 2014, took over as the starter at right cornerback in Game 8 of 2015.

He took hold of the job and has not let go. He has started the last 25 games, with no indication that he is about to relinquish his position despite the competition from draft picks and free agents who have been brought in.

"One thing you've got to understand, this is football," he said. "It's always a revolving door with an organization. I know if I was an owner or a GM of a team, I would continually try to make my team better.

"You can't take that as a knock on you. You've got to go out there and have tunnel vision and work and be the best you can be as a player."

Safety Don Carey, a Lion since 2011, related a story from meeting Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells in Miami during the draft process in 2009.

"He said, 'Carey, a pup is going to bite you or it's not,'" Carey said. "That's the best way to describe Nevin. He's going to bite you. He's been that way his whole life."

The Lions' secondary is a tight unit. Part of that is because four of the top from last year – starting cornerbacks (Lawson and Darius Slay), safety (Glover Quin) and No. 1 nickel back (Quandre Diggs) have been together for at least three seasons. Tavon Wilson, the other starting safety, is in his second year as a Lion.

They've developed a strong chemistry through their experience together.

"I feel like since I've been here, this is the best chemistry-wise, being able to communicate," Lawson said. "We're always talking, nonstop, before the ball is snapped."

There is quality depth behind those five – among them safety Miles Killebrew and cornerbacks Teez Tabor, DJ Hayden and Johnson Bademosi. Depth means competition for jobs, and Lawson understands that.

"This is the NFL," Lawson said. "You've always got to be ready. I got my first shot by being ready. The best cornerbacks went down. I got in and was ready to play."

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