A college athlete's senior season is supposed to be the most memorable of his or her career up to that point.
But for Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, his senior season at Tennessee was anything but memorable.
He was on the Butkus, Bronko Nagurski and Bednarik preseason award watch lists heading into his last year after accumulating 206 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and eight sacks combined as a sophomore and junior.
But things got off to an ominous start and didn't finish anything close to the way Reeves-Maybin would have hoped.
He was ejected from the season opener because of a targeting penalty and then missed the bulk of the season with a shoulder injury suffered in the fourth game of the season.
The injury and subsequent surgery affected his ability to prepare for the pre-draft process and no-doubt played a factor in him falling to the fourth round where he was selected by Detroit 124th overall.
Eight months after suffering the shoulder injury, Reeves-Maybin is healthy and was back on the field with his new Lions teammates for the start of OTAs last week.
"It's been a while since I put my feet back on the turf with cleats on, so it was definitely great to get back out here," he said after the open OTA practice last week.
He said his goal is to simply build good practices on top of each other.
The linebacker position was an area of weakness for the Lions a season ago, which is why general manager Bob Quinn addressed it so aggressively this offseason in free agency and the draft.
Competition for playing time is expected to be fierce, and Reeves-Maybin is hoping the speed and instincts he showed during his healthy sophomore and junior seasons can help him carve out a role at the WILL spot in Detroit.
"It's all a process," he said. "I have a long way to go. The big thing right now is making the playbook second nature and not having to think."
The more comfortable rookies like Reeves-Maybin get with the playbook, the faster they start playing on the practice field. It's a lesson both he and roommate Jarrad Davis are navigating through.
The good thing for the Lions is they both seem to have the right attitude about it coming in.
"Good athletes. Good ball players," veteran linebacker Paul Worrilow said of Davis and Reeves-Maybin. "The kind of people I'm always attracted to, to kind of learn with and create a bond with in the building, are people that love ball and those two definitely do.
"They are here early, they are at meetings early and grinding the playbook. That's something I can relate to, a ball player that is just immersed in everything we're doing."
The Lions want to be faster on defense, and Reeves-Maybin has the kind of speed, athleticism, instincts and tackling ability they've lacked from the outside linebacker position the last couple seasons.
Now healthy, he knows the quicker he learns the defense, the faster he'll start playing. That's the first step in trying to push the veterans for playing time.