For three years, Auburn football coaches poked and prodded, coaxed and cajoled, begged and pleaded with Nick Fairley, first to get his academics in order so he could play and then to apply himself, to put in the work, both on his body and on his understanding of the game, so he could reach his enormous potential.

Nothing much happened in those three years. It took him two years at a community college to qualify academically at Auburn, and he was underwhelming in his first season in the SEC making just two starts in 2009.

Then came 2010. With a multi-million-dollar carrot dangling in front of him in the form of the NFL draft, Fairley finally put in the time to get his body in shape, finally put in the time to understand the finer points of playing defensive tackle and, lo and behold, he became the most dominant player defensive player in the country, helping Auburn win the national championship.

This brings us to last month at the league meetings in Orlando when Lions general manager Martin Mayhew announced the team would not be picking up Fairley’s fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

For the last three seasons, the Lions have been poking and prodding, coaxing and cajoling, begging and pleading with Fairley. Please stay out of trouble in the offseason. Please get your butt in a weight room and come to camp in shape. Please take the physical gifts you were blessed with, for which we have paid you nearly $10 million dollars, and use them to help us win football games.

But for three seasons, Fairley has only teased. There have been flashes of greatness, for sure, but nothing sustained. There has been mostly injury and inconsistency.