Joseph Fauria scored seven touchdowns in his rookie season with the Detroit Lions last year, but his collection of end zone celebrations after the receptions are arguably just as impressive. His highlight reel features the Wobble, the Gas Pedal dance, N’SYNC’s famous “Bye, Bye, Bye” move and even a throwback boogie down with some Saturday Night Fever flair, accompanied by a jumping, between-the-legs spike in honor of his uncle and former NFL player, Christian Fauria.
But while he’s been working on his dance moves (even Lance Bass shared some tips), Fauria is also prepping to perform on the field. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound tight end has adopted a diversified training regimen leading up to camp, complete with everything from classic football conditioning to hot yoga. A three-sport athlete at Crespi High School in Encino, Calif., Fauria plays beach and indoor volleyball to work on vertical jumping, and does boxing for cardio and overall fitness. “You always have to keep your body guessing,” he says. He’s practiced football fundamentals, like catching the ball, running routes and getting open, but he says he’s also focused on building up his strength to ward off the defense.
“A lot of catches for tight ends are contested and you have to be strong, coordinated and ready to catch the ball when you’re getting hit,” Fauria says. “It’s all about releases and being aware of what the defense is going to do.”
In conjunction with training, nutrition is also important to Fauria’s lifestyle. After watching his mother and grandmother as a child, Fauria spends a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking balanced meals such as baked chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, green veggies and big salads. While he typically eats healthy and knows what foods are best to fuel his body before games, he has his weaknesses: In-n-Out burgers and fries, animal style – “that’s when the six pack goes away” – and an Asian sweet treat called Pocky.
Undrafted out of UCLA, Fauria's path towards an NFL career wasn’t as smooth as his dance moves. He transferred from Notre Dame following his freshman year and suffered a groin injury before the NFL Combine. During the East-West Shrine all-star game in Florida in January, Fauria stretched out for a diving catch and heard a loud pop from his thigh. He later learned he had a groin avulsion injury and was required to rest and limit weight bearing for months leading up to UCLA’s Pro Day and the NFL combine. After waiting through six rounds in the 2013 NFL Draft, Fauria was signed by the Lions as a rookie free agent. Despite his undrafted label, he says he’s hell-bent on having a successful professional career.
“All the odds are against you when you’re undrafted – it’s a numbers game and they don’t really give you a chance,” the 24-year-old says. “But it’s not all about what’s on paper. You can’t measure a guy’s will or heart and that’s one thing they probably didn’t think I had.”
The California native had 18 receptions for 207 yards last season, and entering his second season, Fauria says he’s realizing that mental preparation is equally important for success in the league. “That’s why you have guys like Peyton Manning that are in the building watching film for hours – there’s a lot of thought that goes into the game,” he says.
But while he’s studying up on different defenses in preparation for the 2014 season, he also knows he has big dancing shoes to fill.
“I created a monster,” Fauria says.