Detroit — After Chris Houston’s departure ahead of training camp, the competition began.
It wasn’t for the starting cornerback job, but for the coveted No. 23 jersey.
Second-year cornerback Darius Slay wanted the number, along with a few other Lions, so coach Jim Caldwell decided to have a competition for it.
Slay turned out to be the victor — likely for both the number and the starting nod — as he cast off his old No. 30 uniform for the No. 23. Slay debuted his new number in Wednesday night’s practice at Ford Field.
Beyond being a popular number in several sports because of Michael Jordan, it also has a special place with Slay, because it’s also worn by Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden.
“That’s my favorite player and my role model,” Slay said. “I look up to him.”
When Houston was released in June, Slay began his quest.
“I told Coach that I heard with Chris (it was available). You think I can get 23?” Slay said. “He said you have to work for it. I’ve been doing my work in practice and he felt like I deserved it today.
“He told me during lunch and I said, ‘Yes!’ ”
Slay, a second-round pick last season, said he also tried to ask Houston for the number last season, with no results.
“I did (ask) when I first got here, but (Houston) said he’d had it since he had it since he got in the league too,” Slay said. “I just thought he’d give it to me just to give it to me.”
Slay wore No. 9 and No. 47 in two years at Mississippi State.