DETROIT -- Rookie tight end Joseph Fauria was a sucker for attention long before his touchdown dances earned him a mention on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," and football was his avenue for expression years before he became a red-zone weapon with the Lions.
As a 15-year-old, Fauria traveled with his extended family to Jacksonville, Fla., to cheer on his uncle Christian Fauria and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.
The Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21, after Christian recovered a late on-side kick, and Joseph joined Christian on the field for a celebration that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
Covered in confetti and bursting with family pride, Joseph snapped as many self-portraits as his throw-away camera could hold, and long after Tom Brady left the locker room he found himself alone with his uncle and the Lombardi Trophy in a tunnel at Alltel Stadium.
While Christian wondered what to do with the awkward-to-hold award that by this time had been smudged with sweat, fingerprints and who knows what else, Joseph basked in the thought that he might win one himself one day.
"I felt like I won it," Fauria said last week. "I was like, 'Ah, look.' I'm holding it, kissing it because that's what everyone was doing. But looking back at it, I'm like, 'I didn't deserve to hold that. I was just a little kid.'"
At heart, Fauria still is a kid in many ways.
When he scored the first touchdown of his NFL career in a Week1 win over the Minnesota Vikings, he celebrated with a Miley Cyrus-like gyration that quickly went viral.
Last week, when Fauria scored again, he punctuated his touchdown with a "Bye, Bye, Bye" tribute to the boy band 'N Sync, a dance inspired by a skit Fallon and Justin Timberlake put together and one that earned him a $10,000 donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan from the late-night talk show host.
"Do I love attention? Yes," Fauria said. "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 not going to miss a block and start doing a dance. Getting touchdowns and doing dances, 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."
Fauria's magnetic personality has been well groomed throughout the years by a family that's as fun loving as it is athletic.
Christian played 13 NFL seasons with New England, Carolina, Washington and Seattle, and now serves as a color commentator for the Patriots and an analyst for CBS Sports. Joseph Fauria's other uncles, Lance and Quinn, played college football at Washington and Northern Arizona, respectively, and helped him develop his soft hands with chuck-it-till-he-cries games of catch. His mother, Julie, played basketball at College of the Canyons. And all four spent their share of time in front of a video camera when their father, Ashley, the practical jokester of the family, first brought one home years ago.
"Our family, we joke that we should put a camera in our house because we're more entertaining than the Kardashians," Julie said. "We would definitely give them a run for their money."
Joseph, an only child who was raised by his mother with help from his grandparents and most of the rest of the neighborhood, might be the most entertaining of all.
When he was 6 or 7, Christian said Joseph had the guts to ask a girl to dance when the family was out at dinner one night. The girl said yes.
A few years later, when Christian stopped by one of Joseph's flag football practices, Grandpa Ashley, the coach, was yelling at Joseph to stop doing the Macarena between plays.
More recently, Joseph earned a cult following on the social media site Vine for the 7-second skits he stars in often opposite his little cousins.
Those videos made their way into the Lions' tight-end room earlier this year.
"I have (two daughters) 14 and 11 and let's put it this way, his humor is somewhat in their wheelhouse, which I don't know if that's a positive or a negative, but my kids think he's hilarious," Lions tight ends coach Bobby Johnson said.
Johnson said he can see Fauria being a "Ryan Seacrest-ish" TV personality when his playing days are over. "In a heartbeat," Johnson said. "I think he could be one of those guys where 10 years down the road when he gets done playing you're sitting around somewhere and all of a sudden Joe's like this big star and it wouldn't surprise you. You'd be like, 'Oh my God,' when you see him, 'I remember when he was in (the NFL).'"
For now, and for good reason, Fauria's focus is the NFL.
A shade over 6-feet-7 and all limbs, Fauria already has proved to be a matchup nightmare near the goal line for defenses overconsumed with Calvin Johnson. He has four catches for 32 yards, is one receiving touchdown behind Johnson for the team lead and could see his role grow over the next two months with Nate Burleson out with a broken arm.
Still, Fauria is determined to do more.
He signed with the Lions as a free agent after going unselected in April's draft and will forever be burned by that slight. Teams thought he was too tall or not fast enough or couldn't hold his own as a blocker, something he was rarely asked to do at UCLA.
Johnson said Fauria has made great strides in that area, and Fauria promised the best is yet to come.
"I wake up in the morning, I'm undrafted, it sucks," Fauria said. "But I'm going to play my butt off, work for the better of this team and become a real true pro-style tight end and keep getting better."
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