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O'HARA: Why Agnew is considered one of Detroit's rising young stars

Jamal Agnew would have been an unlikely candidate at this time a year ago to be on any list projecting the rising young stars on Detroit's four pro sports teams.

That is far from the case this year.

Being voted All Pro as a punt returner in his rookie season with the Detroit Lions makes it hard to keep Agnew off any list of best young players.

Agnew was projected as one of the 12 rising stars on Detroit's four pro teams in a list compiled by the Detroit Free Press sports staff and published over the weekend. Under the Freep's guidelines, players had to be under 25 on July 31, and had to have three or fewer seasons of pro experience.

Agnew made the cut at No 12. Three teammates made also made the list: Linebacker Jarrad Davis (10), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (7) and running back Kerryon Johnson (5).

Agnew was an unheralded fifth-round draft pick out of San Diego last year. He had impressed the Lions' scouts with his speed, quickness and ball skills as a return man and cornerback.

Agnew made his first big splash with the Lions with a long punt return for a touchdown in a mock game at Ford Field before the start of the preseason schedule. There was no contact or tackling in the mock game, but Agnew's acceleration and quickness stood out.

There was more to come in the regular season, and it didn't take long for Agnew to show it. In a Monday night road win over the Giants in Week 2 he returned a punt 88 yards for the clinching touchdown. He had a second punt return TD against the Saints in Week 7.

For the season, Agnew led the league with a 15.4-yard average on 29 punt returns. He was the only player with two punt returns for TDs.

Agnew won't be content to rest on his laurels, based on his comments after last season when the All Pro votes were announced, and what he said at the end of minicamp this year.

"Honestly, it still seems surreal," he said of the All Pro vote.

Agnew also got spot duty on offense, and he was a backup at cornerback.

He played only 12 snaps on offense. He had two carries for nine yards and two catches for 18. He played 69 snaps on defense, with 57 of them coming in a lopsided win over the Packers in the regular-season finale. Agnew had four tackles and a fumble recovery in the game.

In minicamp, Agnew talked generally about making small improvements than can have big results in his performance.

"Little things," he said. "Flexibility, footwork, eye discipline – all that stuff. It's the little things that separate you. I'm just focusing on the little details."

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