Detroit Lions count on rookie Kenny Golladay to replace wide receiver Anquan Boldin

Detroit Lions rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay prepares to make a reception during training camp last Wednesday in Allen Park. (AP photo)

ALLEN PARK — Kenny Golladay was an average-sized, late-developing football player while growing up on Chicago’s South Side, where North Dakota coaches came and offered him a scholarship.

No one else wanted him.

Golladay, who was a 5-foot-11, 175-pound wide receiver back then, accepted his only option and shot up about 5 inches over two years in the northern Great Plains.

When North Dakota fired coach Chris Mussman in 2013, Golladay decided to leave, too. He transferred to Northern Illinois, where he redshirted one year and flourished the next two seasons, doing enough for the Detroit Lions to draft him in the third round this year. Lions general manager Bob Quinn has said the rookie may line up on the outside or inside, complimenting veterans Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.

Golladay seems set up to be the team’s No. 3 receiver, filling the role Anquan Boldin had last season. Boldin signed this week with Buffalo.

“Of course, that’s the role I want,” Golladay said. “But I’m just focused on coming out here and making at least one play to make myself stand out every practice.”

So far, so good.

The 6-4, 213-pound Golladay has turned heads while becoming a go-to target for Detroit’s quarterbacks, including Matthew Stafford, in training camp. His speed allows him to get separation from defensive backs and his size makes him a tough target to defend.

“I’m just throwing to the open guy,” Stafford said when asked about throwing early and often to Golladay. “I got no qualms about throwing it to anybody. He’s doing a good job of getting open.”

Unlike veterans, the rookie is fired up for the team’s preseason opener Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.

“There’s going to be some butterflies,” Golladay acknowledged. “This is a dream come true and a lot of people don’t get to experience anything like this.”