BEREA, Ohio -- Six undrafted rookie free agents made the Cleveland Browns' initial 53-man roster -- a roster that is constantly evolving at the bottom -- and none was more unlikely than Ray Agnew. The 5-foot-10, 247-pound fullback out of Southern Illinois has an NFL pedigree; his father, Ray Sr., played defensive end and defensive tackle for New England, the New York Giants, and St. Louis, where he won a Super Bowl.
But the younger Agnew is a fullback, an endangered species in the modern NFL. Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan actually values fullbacks in his zone-rushing scheme, and Agnew is in the mold of Washington fullback Darrel Young.
I caught up with Agnew the day after the initial cuts to talk about his nerve-wracking weekend, his father, and playing his position.
How stressed were you on Saturday waiting to hear about the cuts?
Agnew: Oh, I was very stressed, just like everybody else, staring at my phone all day, trying to keep my mind off of it, watch TV, watch Netflix or something. But you can't help but be nervous. It's something that you really want for yourself.
Running back is a position where the past two drafts there hasn't been one picked in the first round. Fullback is an even more endangered species. How do you explain being able to carve out a niche for yourself here?
Agnew: You know, I think I just did it just being the best I could be every practice, just doing what I do best, not trying to do to much, just staying within what I'm comfortable with in my wheelhouse. Just trying to really show them that, 'Hey, this is who I am, this is what I do well,' and you know if they thought it could help their team then they'll keep me around and if not then hopefully I'll land somewhere else.
Can you explain the role of FB in Kyle Shanahan's offense?
Agnew: It's obviously very important because I think his offense is one of those that uses the fullback a lot, one of the very few. And, obviously, he can spread it out, sling it but also it's important to have a fullback in this run game and his zone read because they're kind of the eyes for the running back. We're the first to see the opening. We see the opening, we run through the hole, the running back follows us.
The key for a fullback in this offense is just to not stop your feet, you know, just run. You've got to keep running. If you keep running and you have good head placement then the running back can cut off of you. The way the zone works is it doesn't tell the running back you have to run at this hole. The zone is the running back gets the ball, he looks at one hole, if it's not open he goes to the next one, goes to the next one, goes to the next one. If the fullback is lollygagging through the hole or stopping in the hole, he's going to constrict it for the running back and it's not going to be good, it's probably going to result in a negative play. That's basically what the fullback does in this offense.
Is it true you haven't gotten a carry since high school?
Agnew: That is very true. Hopefully that will change this year.
Have you been lobbying for a Ray Agnew package?
Agnew: No, not really. I'm still a rookie so I kind of keep my mouth shut and do my work. It would be nice to get a few carries.
Your Twitter handle is @Underrated_FB. Why?
Agnew: I've had that for a while. I did it on purpose, because I feel like I've been underrated my whole life, and there's nothing wrong with that. I kind of relish that, being an underrated person, being under the radar and working my way up. I'm totally fine with that. It's just something I noticed. Every time I go on my Twitter it reminds me of where I've been and that good things hopefully are ahead.
Who did you call first on Saturday after you made the Browns' roster?
Agnew: Oh, I called my dad first. He's just proud of me, happy for me. He's been there with me throughout my whole life. He's seen what I've been through in my football career. All I've ever wanted to do in my life, whether it's football or anything, was make my dad proud. To hear him say he's proud of me, that means a lot.