Jamal Agnew will encounter many trials by fire as he navigates through the numerous challenges that typically confront rookies.
It was a trial by wind in Tuesday's OTA practice that gave Agnew a chance to showcase the ball skills he displayed at the University of San Diego that were part of the reason the Detroit Lions' drafted him in the fifth round.
Agnew fielded balls seemingly at ease in a punt-return drill at the start of practice. Despite a gusting cross wind, Agnew made it look like he was catching punts downtown in the Lions' Ford Field home dome.
"I think that comes from practice," Agnew said. "The wind was definitely messing with all of us out there. When it comes to something like that, all you need is reps.
View photos from Day 8 of Detroit Lions OTA practices.
"It's not as hard as it looks."
Easy for him to say – mostly because he makes it look so easy, with a resume to back it up.
Agnew's college stats were hard to ignore at San Diego, even though he did not face major college competition in a FCS program that competes in the Pioneer league.
He had a nose for the ball – and the hands to catch it, and speed to make something happen.
As a four-year player for the Toros, he set the school record with 48 pass breakups and added 11 career interceptions. As a senior he averaged 12.7 yards per punt return with one touchdown and a long return of 63 yards.
In his Pro Day workout, Agnew had reported times of 4.32 and 4.35 seconds.
Obviously, Agnew has obstacles to overcome to win a roster spot. One of those is his size – 5-10 and 180 pounds.
More serious is the depth of competition at cornerback, where the Lions have assembled young talent. Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson are the returning starters with Quandre Diggs, Johnson Bademosi and Adarius Barnes back as reserves.
In addition to taking Agnew in the fifth round, the Lions added depth and competition by signing former Raiders first-round pick DJ Hayden and by drafting Florida cornerback Teez Tabor in the second round.
Playing multiple sports growing up in the San Diego area helped Agnew develop well rounded athletic skills. He played youth baseball --- center field and shortstop – and was an all-conference basketball player at Point Loma High School. He didn't take up football until junior high.
"I think that definitely helped," Agnew said of his varied sports background. "Basketball definitely helped me with my lateral quickness. Playing baseball helped me with ball skills – the flight of the ball, playing with the wind and stuff like that."
Multiple skills to play multiple roles are an asset for a player in Agnew's position, and he has made a positive impression so far.
"He can return punts, he plays in the slot, and he's done an adequate job as well outside so far," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "He probably hasn't had as much scheme exposure as Jarrad has had (first-round pick Jarrad Davis of Florida), but he's doing a good job of adapting."
Agnew has taken to heart the message from the coaching staff to not get caught up in trying to see where he stands on the depth chart.
"The coaches do a really good job of explaining that at this point in time, it's not a depth chart," Agnew said. "It's a rep chart. Somebody in my position, you're just going to go out there and do whatever you can to help the team.
"If it's a position you rarely play, so be it. You do the best you can."