There was a time as a young athlete when
That was 10 years ago, when the Tigers made Schilens a low-round draft pick out of Highland High School in suburban Phoenix. Schilens had size and speed, and he caught the eye of baseball scouts playing on the best travel teams in the area.
That was then, and this is now. Schilens' first game in downtown Detroit will be as a wide receiver for the Lions at Ford Field in the preseason opener against the Jets on Friday night.
Schilens, beginning his sixth NFL season, is in a crowded group vying for roster spots as the Lions look to build depth behind their top receiving trio of
Schilens, originally drafted by the Raiders in the seventh round in 2008, has caught 100 passes in five seasons – the first four with the Raiders, and last year with the Jets. The Lions signed Schilens as a free agent in July, just before the start of training camp.
Schilens has not stopped to assess where he stands on the receiver depth chart.
"Honestly, I can't really tell," he said. "I like this team. I like being a part of it.
"I will say, I think this is the best team I've ever been on. It's immensely talented. It's a good team. The guys like each other, and we work well together."
At 6-4, 225 pounds with the speed that had him clocked in at 4.38 seconds at the NFL Combine in 2008, Schilens is a talented athlete. He also had a vertical jump of 43 inches.
His talents were first recognized by major league baseball. The Tigers drafted him in the 34th round in 2003 after his senior season in high school.
Schilens got a football scholarship to San Diego State and tried to combine the two sports. He ditched baseball early because the demands on his time were too great to play both sports.
Being on a football scholarship helped him decide to concentrate on catching passes instead of chasing fly balls as a center fielder.
Even though Schilens says he hasn't swung a bat in several years and has given no thought to pursuing a baseball career again, he hasn't lost interest in baseball. And he still wonders how a baseball career might have turned out.
Being drafted so low isn't a throw-away pick in baseball the way it might be in other sports.
For example, the Tigers used another 34th-round pick in 2005 on a catcher identified as Alexander T. Avila.
That, of course, was Alex Avila, who spurned the Tigers to go to Alabama. The Tigers later drafted Avila in the fifth round. Avila came up to the majors in 2009 and has been the Tigers' primary catcher since 2010.
Schilens isn't the only Lions player who might have had a serious chance to make it in major league baseball.
Rodney Peete, who played quarterback for the Lions from 1989-93, was drafted four times by major league teams from 1985 while in high school in Arizona until 1990, when the Tigers took him in the 28th round as a third baseman.
Calvin Johnson had some interest from the Cincinnati Reds while in high school in Atlanta but told them he intended to go to Georgia Tech and concentrate on football.
On the football field, Schilens is a big target with speed. On the baseball diamond, he was super fast. He said he batted first or second because of his speed.
"In the baseball world, I was as fast as it got," he said.
Even though he never played for the Tigers, Schilens followed them from afar.
"Especially when it gets deep into the playoffs I watch them," he said. "I do always think about what could have been. It's so long ago, I just enjoy it for what it is.
"I enjoy them for being a good baseball team."