Allen Hurns proved he could run with some heavyweight All-Pros while training his past few offseasons at the University of Miami with Hurricane receiving legends Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss.
Sunday, the undrafted Jacksonville Jaguars rookie showed he might be the next one in a distinguished line of standout receivers from "The U."
The 6-3, 195-pound Hurns set the school's single-season record with 1,162 receiving yards last season. After reuniting with former Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on the receiver-desperate Jaguars, Hurns jumped out in Sunday's historic NFL debut against the Philadelphia Eagles with four catches, two for touchdowns, totaling 110 yards.
Starting because veteran Cecil Shorts remains sidelined by a nagging hamstring strain, Hurns became the first player to notch a pair of touchdown catches in the first quarter of his NFL debut.
How has life changed?
"I'm getting a lot of attention, a lot of text and phone messages from my former U.M. teammates like (Cleveland Browns receiver) Travis Benjamin,'' Hurns told USA TODAY Sports. "I talk to Santana every other week. He told me, 'I'm doing a great job. Just keep it up.'
"I just have to continue to improve. My focus is on the Washington Redskins Sunday."
The question Hurns begged with his impressive debut that included a 46-yard reception in Sunday's 34-17 Jaguars loss was how does such a talented playmaker slip through the comprehensive scouting thresher?
"I really don't know,'' Hurns said. "All I know is that I use it for motivation every day when I wake up.''
That Hurns got behind cornerback Cary Williams on a post pattern for a 34-yard touchdown to lift the Jaguars to a 7-0 lead was no surprise to quarterback Chad Henne, who learned to trust the sure-handed, precise-route runner who led all receivers with 232 preseason receiving yards.
"I don't know how he didn't get drafted,'' Henne said. "He has all the records at the University of Miami, which is a pretty prestigious school with receivers and talent. He just knows and understands the system and has showed it on the field.
"I'm really excited about his development and where we can go with him. If he keeps making those plays, he's going to be one of our go-to guys.''
Especially with so many guys gone. Hurns jumped at the chance general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley gave him to make a receiver-thin roster reeling from the indefinite suspension of Justin Blackmon for his latest violation of the league's substance-abuse policy and the suspension the first four games of slot receiver Ace Sanders. The Jaguars were further depleted by injuries to Shorts and rookie Allen Robinson during training camp. And Hurns took advantage by catching Bradley's eye.
But what helped most in his bid to stick was that his former Hurricanes offensive coordinator Fisch implemented Miami's system last season as Jaguars offensive coordinator. Hurns can play all three receiver spots.
"Knowing coach Fisch's system gave me a great head start,'' Hurns said. "Especially as a rookie, knowing his playbook took a load off me. When you're coming to the line, you don't have to worry about what route do I have to run and what coverage or anything like that.
"I was able to just go out there and play fast.''
The best intangibles Hurns brings are his work ethic and that chip he carries after hearing the names of 33 drafted receivers and getting passed over despite workouts for the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I'm very thankful to Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley for the opportunity,'' Hurns said. "They took a lot of pressure off. They didn't say, 'You have to beat out this or that guy.' They just let me focus on getting better every day.
"It means a lot that Chad Henne trusted me enough Sunday to get me the ball in key situations.''
At one point, the Jaguars were tied 17-17 after Hurns' 21-yard scoring catch.
"We showed we can do some good things,'' Hurns said. "Now we just have to show we can finish strong.''