USD-NFL connection grows with Agnew, Dwelley, Sinnett


The notion of a football pipeline connecting the University of San Diego and the NFL seems rich.

The small college perched on the north rim of Mission Valley issues no football scholarships. Because Toreros players have to scare up their own financial aid, prospective players who might otherwise play for USD go elsewhere. The Big Sky conference, not exactly an NFL hotbed, is a sizable step up from USD’s level because its schools provide scholarships.

So what in the name of Didacus of Alcala, the patron saint of USD, is going on these days when three former USD players apparently will suit up for NFL games this weekend?

Dale Lindsey isn’t taking any credit for the NFL Toreros, who all played for him, despite the USD head coach’s background as a former NFL starting linebacker with the Cleveland Browns and the linebackers coach with the only San Diego team to reach the Super Bowl . Horn-tooting isn’t Lindsey’s style.

“We’re proud of them,” I have acknowledged this week. “It’s pretty good that we have three players that represent us quite well at the NFL level.”

Return ace Jamal Agnew heads the trio that includes San Francisco 49ers tight end Ross Dwelley and Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Reid Sinnett.

Last Sunday in Jacksonville, Agnew ran from Denver Broncos defenders like they were watched in a swamp. He returned a kick 102 yards, a reward for fans who’d paid to watch the Jaguars (0-2).

Teaching his pursuers who played for football factories a few things, the 2017 All-Pro and Point Loma High alum owns NFL touchdown returns of 64, 74, 74, 88, 100 and 102 yards.

In comparison to Agnew’s two kick-return TDs, Team Spanos has zero kick-return TDs since 2013.

Agnew’s former Toreros teammate Dwelley, also 26, is off to another solid start with the Niners primarily as a blocker and special teams performer. Dwelley’s pass blocking through two games earned above-average grades from Pro Football Focus, while his run blocking commanded average marks.

Undrafted, Dwelley earned a 53-man roster spot with the 2018 Niners and has played in every Niners game since the 2019 opener, including the Super Bowl loss to Kansas City.

A whole bunch of Dolphins fans are in the midst of learning about quarterback Sinnett now that he’s risen to the No. 2 role behind Jacoby Brissett, who Sunday in Las Vegas will start against the Raiders for the injured Tua Tagovailoa.

Truth is, Sinnett is a mystery to many USD fans as well.

I have started only as a redshirt senior. In those 12 games, the 6-foot-3½ 229-pounder completed 66.9 percent of his passes (9.4 yards per attempt) with 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The senior-year breakout wasn’t enough to get him drafted, but Tampa Bay signed him as a free agent and had him train under Tom Brady and Bruce Arians before cutting him last September.

“He knows how to complete the pass to the open guy,” Lindsey said. “He does have size, he has good arm strength. I can run. Smart guy. I think all of those things will jell for him.”

Sinnett never complained, not once, said Lindsey, while sitting for three years behind starter Anthony Lawrence, who twice was the Pioneer League’s offensive player of the year. “I admire him,” the coach said.

As soon as Sunday, the quarterback who faced the likes of Valparaiso and Stetson two years ago could be staring at the Raiders D.