- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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DETROIT -- Darius Slay has spent the past year trying to claim the No. 23. On Wednesday, he finally got it.
The second-year cornerback initially approached veteran Chris Houston for the number after he was drafted in 2013, but Slay said Wednesday night that Houston rebuffed him and that he didn’t want to offer him anything for the number -- a typical tradition for a requested number switch in pro sports.
Then, Houston was released in June and Slay approached Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, asking for the switch.
“He said, 'You got to work for it,'” Slay said. “Obviously, I’ve been doing my work in practice and he felt like I deserved it today.”
Slay said Caldwell told him during lunch Wednesday he could finally make his desired switch from the No. 30 to his desired 23.
Caldwell said after practice Slay earned the jersey switch and that he held a competition between players who wanted it to see who played the best.
“It was a fairly popular number,” Caldwell said.
Why did Slay want 23?
Part of the reason is it is his favorite higher number since he can’t wear a number between 1 and 19 due to NFL regulations. So he wanted 23. And there was another reason, too.
His favorite player in the NFL -- something he mentioned often last season -- is Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden, who he will coincidentally see Saturday night when the Lions open the preseason against the Browns.
Now that Slay has the number, the Lions are hoping he can do more than just idolize Haden. They hope he can start playing like him as well.
“That’s my role model,” Slay said. “I look up to him and [he’s] one of my favorite players.”