A talented tight end/defensive end coming out of Williamson High in Mobile, Fairley failed to quality and instead attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. After sitting out his freshman season, Fairley had a big freshman season in 2008 in junior college, but because he didn't graduate early he didn't get to Auburn until this summer.
That left him behind the eight-ball in terms of getting familiar with a new defensive system, but Fairley quickly caught on during summer workouts with his teammates and in preseason practice. He showed enough that he earned a starting role Saturday night against Louisiana Tech in the season opener and responded with five tackles and a fumble recovery. Fairley said the game experience was one he had waited so long for that he was just ready to get on the field and get it going.
"It was a lot of fun," Fairley said. "I got excited when we left for the hotel Friday. I just hung out going over my plays and spent time with Jake Ricks and Mike Blanc. When Saturday came we had Tiger Walk and that pumped me up a lot. I was real hyped for the game. I came out calm though and everything went well."
While his performance was a good one for a first game, Coach Gene Chizik said that the 6-5, 290 sophomore has plenty of things to work on in the coming days and weeks to become the player he's capable of being.
"Being a defensive lineman and starting your first game, things get hairy down there," Chizik said. "That's a whole different world down there on the defensive line because it's so physical. It's just the nature of the position. Nick played high a little bit, but overall really tried to play physical and tried to play with some effort. I think he falls into the category of we've got a long way to go to get him where he needs to be. I think he's got a chance down the road to be a really good player."
Starting alongside Jake Ricks, Fairly not only started, but played a large majority of the defensive snaps with Zach Clayton not playing after being banged up for much of the last two weeks and Mike Blanc nursing a sore hand. While he admitted it was tough to push through at times, he said he now knows what to expect and will be prepared the next time.
"I thought we would have more rotation, but it didn't work out that way," Fairley said. "Regardless of whether it happens or not I just have to get in better shape. I'm going to start running after practices just to build up my conditioning."
Coming in with a lot of fanfare and high expectations, Fairly certainly played well in his debut for the Tigers, but he noted he's still not satisfied and is looking for more as he gets more comfortable playing in the SEC.
"I think I lived up to it a little bit," Fairley said. "I can still do a lot better. It was a long road for me to get here. I'm just trying to make the best of it."