June 26, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Lions' Nevin Lawson might have a bigger opportunity with release of Chris Houston

Nevin Lawson: 'To get on that field to help my team win, I'll be glad for the opportunity.' (Detroit News / Daniel Mears)

Berea, Ohio — Growing up in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area, Lions rookie cornerback Nevin Lawson attended football camps with local NFL stars like Santana Moss, Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee and Asante Samuel.

Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin also hosted a camp in Lawson’s hometown that he attended every year he could, and all of his interactions with those NFL players helped keep him interested in football.

“I saw those cats come out and show us that they care about the community and that really felt good,” the 2014 fourth-round pick from Utah State said. “And the encouraging words that they gave us really kept me going and focused.”

Lawson had a chance to be a similar role model Tuesday during a Play 60 event during the NFL Rookie Symposium at Cleveland Browns headquarters, and he was one of the most excited Lions rookies while throwing passes and running drills.

“These kids definitely look up to us,” Lawson said. “I remember coming to camps like this and just having fun. That’s the main thing. Just make sure these kids have fun and show them anything you think will help them if they choose to pursue this game.”

With the release of Chris Houston two weeks ago, Lawson has a better chance to pursue playing time than he had when the Lions drafted him in May. Houston was the top cornerback on the team, signing a five-year, $25 million deal last offseason, but a poor 2013 and an offseason toe surgery led to his release and helped every cornerback move up on the depth chart.

Lawson, though, isn’t thinking about how the fallout affects him.

“At the end of the day, I have no control over that,” he said. “The only thing I can control is what I do.”

During the Lions’ offseason program, Lawson worked primarily in the nickel cornerback role, hardly a surprise considering his 5-foot-9 stature. He’ll likely have to beat out Bill Bentley, who played adequately in that role last season, to earn playing time on defense.

When the Lions drafted Lawson, he said he felt plenty comfortable playing outside, but for now, Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis and Cassius Vaughn will most likely earn those jobs.

“I’m just glad to be able to play on that field,” Lawson said. “Any position, any chance I get, even if it’s special teams or whatever it is. To get on that field to help my team win, I’ll be glad for the opportunity.”

In an effort to adapt to the NFL quickly, Lawson said he regularly talked to cornerbacks coach Tony Oden, who told him to avoid having false steps in his breaks and memorize the playbook during the month break before training camp.

Lawson never had a chance to meet Houston, who recovered from surgery back home in Austin, Texas, but he has embraced the other veteran leadership in the secondary. And even though Houston’s release bumps him up on the depth chart, Lawson isn’t looking at the people currently ahead of him.

“Even if he was here, he would still have to compete for a job because everybody has to compete for a job,” Lawson said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really affect me, and I’m glad we have the group and the leadership that we have in that secondary that I have met already that have been there every day.”

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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