By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Shifting a goofy, guilty glance side to side before bursting into a grin, Detroit Lions rookie tight end Joseph Fauria admitted to practicing his ‘N Sync touchdown dance moves in the mirror before debuting them during Sunday’s game in Washington.
The UCLA product, who also made headlines for performing Miley Cyrus-like moves after his first NFL touchdown in week one, went undrafted in April. For that reason, beneath the happy-go-lucky, hyped-up, all-smiles touchdown dances, Fauria is deeply motivated. Not being selected is something he thinks about often.
“Every day,” Fauria said. “Undrafted free agent – if you look at my Wikipedia page, it’s there. It’s a stamp. Might as well put it on my frickin’ forehead. It’s for the rest of my life, and it bothers me every day. Wake up in the morning – I went undrafted. Sucks. But I’m going to play my butt off, work for the better of this team, become a real, true pro-style tight end and keep getting better.”
A quarterback’s dream target at 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, Fauria has taken advantage of almost every opportunity. He has snagged four passes of the six times he has been thrown. Those four catches have gotten for a total of 32 yards. His long reception is 22 yards, but the shorter catches have also been effective. Three have gone for first downs; two have been touchdowns.
Fauria seems to feel good about the direction he is going, but he knows there is a long road ahead.
“I’m really comfortable, but even with the touchdown and the dance, I still made a few mistakes,” Fauria said. “I’m still a young guy trying to learn this offense, trying to get that timing down and stuff like that, build trust with [quarterback Matthew [Stafford], and I think I continue to do that week by week.
“Here’s the thing – I know what I’m capable of,” Fauria continued. “I know that [when] my name gets passed on by 32 teams in April, I know what I can do and how I can answer back and how I can work toward a certain goal. Like I said, I know what I’m capable of. I know when that ball was thrown, it was coming to my hands, no matter what. No one else was going to catch it besides me. It’s that type of approach which I do every game, every ball that’s in the air, every catch I have.”
The touchdown dances might have distracted everyone else just a bit from how effective Fauria has been, but Fauria knows the score. As he points out, he is not dancing on the sideline. He is not busting the moves after missing a block. But when he scores a touchdown, he is going to dance.
After all, in college he never got the opportunity, and dances are not looked too fondly upon in high school either.
“23 years of pent-up non-celebrating was really difficult, especially at UCLA because I scored so many times,” said Fauria, a California native who snagged 20 touchdown passes at UCLA, including 12 his senior season. “There was a few times I just had that itch, and a little twitch a little bit too in the end zone, but I kept it, being responsible, and now it’s just full steam ahead.
“I’m just going to keep it fun,” Fauria added. “I love football, and I love more being in the end zone, and when you have that two seconds to show your individuality without going over the top? I’m going to do it.”
As much as he is having, he knows his place. He is still a first-year guy, still learning, and he knows he can only celebrate when his play warrants it. He did the second touchdown dance as a response to Late Night Jimmy Fallon’s pledge to donate $10,000 to a charity of the next NFL player to do a touchdown dance from Fallon’s end zone dance skit.
Aside from the donation, though, he enjoys the feedback he gets on his end zone antics.
“Do I love attention? Yes,” he said, cracking up again. “I’m not trying to hide it. My personality is one that can be shown, and if it’s in a positive light – I’m not going to be in the negative eye – I’m going to just keep making plays. I’m not going to miss a block and start doing a dance. I’m getting touchdowns and doing dances, so that’s always a positive, but I’m going to continue to keep a short leash on it and make sure I’m not stepping out of line.
“I’m still a rookie,” Fauria added. “I’m still learning the ropes, and I’ll keep moving forward from there.”