Jamal Agnew drafted by Detroit Lions
Imagine you are back in your younger days just starting to play sports. Whenever you go out on that field, you always dream you are one day going to be playing in the pros.
This past weekend, that dream became a reality for Jamal Agnew, a senior cornerback for the University of San Diego Torero football team.
Agnew received outstanding news when he found out that the Detroit Lions made him the 165th player selected in this year’s NFL draft. He is the second Torero in history to be drafted. In 2008, Josh Johnson was selected in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Not many NFL players are produced by schools with student populations as small as USD’s. When Agnew found out he was drafted, he could not contain his excitement.
He thanked Lions’ owner Martha Ford, general manager Bob Quinn, and head coach Jim Caldwell in a conference call after learning he had been drafted.
“You have no idea how excited me and my family are right now,” Agnew said. “We’re beyond tired. First of all, I want to thank Mrs. Ford, Mr. Quinn, and Jim Caldwell for the opportunity to be a Detroit Lion. I went out there in mid-April. It was a good visit. I met the coaching staff and GM and had a great time. I got a feel for what the culture was like out there.”
Agnew, who was a two-time defensive MVP and a first team All-Pioneer League performer in 2016, finished his tremendous USD career as the program’s all-time leader in passes defended with a whopping 59.
In 44 career games that he suited up for the Toreros, he totaled 148 tackles, 118 of which were solo, with 12.5 tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, and 11 interceptions.
The speedy cornerback put a final stamp on his Torero career this past season, by helping the team to a 10-2 record and going undefeated in the Pioneer Football League.
He also helped the Toreros earn their first Football Championship Series playoff victory with the team’s 35-21 first round win at Cal Poly.
This past season, he finished with 31 tackles, 24 of them solo, 13 passes defended, one blocked kick, one quarterback hurry, and two interceptions.
He also played on special teams for the Toreros, fielding 17 punts for 216 yards (12.7 average), including a 63-yarder for a touchdown against Valparaiso.
Agnew played cornerback for the Toreros, and he is unsure what position he will play for the Lions.
“[I’m] not really [sure what’s next],” Agnew said. “I’m just looking forward to going in there and competing with the other guys […] and just looking to get better.”
Making the NFL is a dream for thousands of kids, but a reality for just a handful. Agnew told The USD Vista he realized his potential after a game against a crosstown rival.
“I think when I really realized it could be a reality was after we played San Diego State [in 2015],” Agnew said. “It just made me feel ‘These guys are on full-ride scholarships and these guys weren’t anything special. If I can dominate on this level then I can definitely dominate the next level.”
While being drafted is an unbelievable blessing, it also carries a bit of a burden in regard to his final exams.
“Mini camp starts on May 12,” Agnew said. “I’ll be flying out there the day before and stuff will kick off from there.I actually might have to fly back for finals, but I’m trying to see if I can take them a little bit early.”
Agnew also mentioned that Torero teammate Jonah Hodges received an invite to the Lions’ rookie mini camp.
“He’s excited” Agnew said. “That’s the rookie mini camp that starts next week. It’s like three days [long], and then after those three days they see if he makes the team. Jonah is a hell of a player. He’ll definitely make the roster.”
Agnew always had a dream of playing in the NFL, but when draft day came around, he said it didn’t change much about his day to day life.
“My life hasn’t really changed,” Agnew said. “I’m still the same person. I’m still talking to the same people. Nothing’s really changed that much.”
Part of what made his draft day experience so special was the fact that he got to share it with a beloved family member.
“My grandma has been real sick lately,” Agnew said. “She’s on hospice rest, so we all met up at her house and just celebrated.”
Even though his grandmother was not well, he knew that she would not miss out on this special day. Agnew said his grandmother is one of the most important people in his life.
He explained that when she found out her grandson would be fulfilling one of his childhood dreams, his grandmother understood the magnitude of the moment.
“Yeah, she is beyond happy for me,” Agnew said. “She was lost for words honestly. Like, literally at a loss for words.”
For many people, moving away from Southern California can be a difficult thing to adjust to and may create some uncertainty. Agnew said that he is confident he won’t have any trouble being away.
“I have no problems with it,” Agnew said. “You know, in college we traveled all around the country. We went to New York, [and] we went to the Midwest multiple times a year. We went to Florida, we went to North Carolina, we went everywhere. I honestly like the Midwest. San Diego’s weather is nice, but you cannot have it perfect all the time.”
While there are still hours upon hours of work to be done before he can take the field as an NFL player, no one would blame Agnew for thinking he may now have something perfect all the time: an NFL contract and a chance to showcase his skills as a Detroit Lion. However, he says his first paycheck will go toward something many USD students can relate to.
“Oh, I’m definitely trying to pay off some student loans,” Agnew said. “I got a pretty good car now. Other than housing out there in Detroit, I’m definitely spending my money on paying off these student loans at USD.”
Written by Jake Ellis, Contributor