Rookie cornerback Jamal Agnew enjoyed every aspect of his first experience at Ford Field from the fans in the stands to his big play on the field.
Jamal Agnew had never experienced anything in his career at the University of San Diego to match the atmosphere of the Detroit Lions' mock game at Ford Field.
He didn't stumble stepping out under the brightest lights he'd ever seen for a football game. The rookie cornerback provided one of Saturday's highlights with a punt return of 75-plus yards for a touchdown.
It was a big play in the mock game, and an important one for Agnew in his bid to win a roster spot. There's an opening for a return man with the departure of Andre Roberts as a free agent.
The Lions have one of the NFL's top special teams units overall, and the return game is a big part of it. Roberts returned two punts for touchdowns last season in addition to contributing some big catches as a versatile backup receiver.
Agnew enjoyed every aspect of his first experience at Ford Field -- the entire day, and his big play. It was the first game action on any level at Ford Field since Lions management undertook a sweeping renovation. Attendance was announced as 26,783.
"This atmosphere is ridiculous," Agnew said after the game.
Agnew's punt return contributed to it. The crowd roared when he broke free from the last wave of the cover team and accelerated to the end zone.
Agnew read his blockers the way special teams coordinator Joe Marciano had the scheme drawn up after catching Kasey Redfern's punt.
"I just saw the wall sitting over there," Agnew explained. "The punt team did a really good job of setting it up. Coach Joe is the mastermind behind it all. There is a method to his madness. We followed his script, and it ended up paying off in the end."
What's the method?
"Just get the block, get your work done early and hit the hole," Agnew said. "That's what the return man is supposed to do."
First impressions obviously count, and although Agnew participated in the offseason program, returning a punt for a touchdown in the first semblance of live game action made a good impression
The Lions drafted Agnew in the fifth round because of the ball skills he displayed playing cornerback and the speed—sub 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- that made him a dangerous return man. Agnew has to show that he can use his skills to make the jump from a smaller college to the NFL.
Everything Agnew is experiencing is bigger than at San Diego, including crowd size.'
"This is probably two times bigger than I played in college," Agnew said of Ford Field.
Ford Field's capacity of 65,000 for NFL football is actually 10 times bigger than the 6,000 capacity of San Diego's Torero Stadium. Agnew said the biggest crowds he played in front of were about 20,000 for road games at North Dakota State.
"Consistently, we probably played in front of 900 or 800," he said, referring to home games.
As much as Agnew enjoyed the day, he is well aware that there is more work ahead, with bigger challenges than a mock game. Training camp intensity ramps up next week when the Lions go to Indianapolis for two days of joint practices against the Colts before next Sunday's first preseason game.
"I just think of it as another practice," Agnew said of Saturday's game. "Obviously, the fans are out there. It's a way different atmosphere than a regular practice.
"I didn't get to play in front of this atmosphere in college. Behind out here in front of the fans, it was great."
View photos from the Mock Game at Ford Field on Aug. 5, 2017.