By: Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

If it’s true that confidence breeds success, Lions’ third-year tight end Eric Ebron is poised for a tremendous season.

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“I definitely believe that I am one of the greatest,” Ebron told reporters over the weekend. “And I definitely believe that I’m going to try to be one of the greatest and give it everything I’ve got to do it. I’ve done it in college and now I’m trying to do it at this level here.”

The flamboyant Ebron, sporting specially-designed cleats in honor of Muhammad Ali, was discussing the influence that the legendary boxer has had on his career. Ali was known for his unshakeable self-confidence, a quality that Ebron sees as critical to his own development.

“He kind of reminds me of the attitude you should have through sports: to believe in yourself no matter what anyone says, no matter what anyone does you always just believe in yourself. Muhammad Ali said he was the greatest before he was and that’s kind of how you should look upon anything you’re going to do.

“You should be great at it even before you are great at it because then you’re just talking it into existence,” Ebron said.

Though there is a fine line between confident and cocky, it is roundly accepted that professional athletes should view themselves as the best at what they do. It is better to be arrogant than insecure, the thinking goes, no matter what the numbers might suggest.

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Ebron knows he’s underwhelmed since being selected tenth overall in the 2014 draft, but he won’t let that shake his sense of self-belief. After showing marked improvement in his sophomore season, the talented 23-year-old is eager to make an emphatic statement in year three – a goal he’s discussed with a number of his fellow 2014 draftees.

“For us that we’re drafted in our class that was so elite and so talented, for the ones that haven’t made it to the Pro Bowl or done the things that we know we can do, we’ve all talked about this is a make-it-or-break-it year,” he said.

“This is year three in the National Football League. Most people don’t make it past this year, so we all gotta come out and do something that’s productive for our team and show our work.”

Despite the pressure that comes with being a top-ten pick, Ebron scoffed at the notion that it could be seen as a curse.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “Who gets drafted tenth overall by the National Football League? You get one player every year that gets drafted number ten, so it’s definitely a blessing.”

Though it’s a blessing he has yet to fully embrace, Ebron is trending in the right direction. After finishing with just 25 receptions for 248 yards and 1 touchdown in his rookie season, he hauled in 47 catches for 537 yards and five TD’s in 2015. If he can match that growth this year, Ebron stands to fundamentally alter his reputation.

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In his own eyes, of course, he’s already one of the best.