Darrin Walls experienced a lot in his four seasons in New York. He played for two head coaches, Rex Ryan and Todd Bowles. He was a starter, a reserve and a special teams standout. He played consistently one season, sparingly the next.
And the new Detroit Lions cornerback felt he learned at each stop. That included playing both man defense and zone as an outside cornerback along with all the special team units last season.
"It was a learning process for me, I think, over the four years," Walls told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Coming in I was on practice squad because I was injured and having to come in two years later and be a starter, I got an opportunity to play and showcase my abilities and then last year being on special teams, I think every year presented something different.
"I learned so much from each year that I think will only help me in the future. I had a good time in New York and I feel like I’m going to miss those guys but when an opportunity presents itself, I have to take advantage of it."
Walls felt like there was more of an opportunity with the Lions than elsewhere, so he signed on Tuesday morning after flying in Monday night and meeting with Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and other coaches. Walls said he had other visits planned after Detroit, although he declined to say where he was headed after the Lions. He said he had not heard much from the Jets, either, during the free agent process. Walls said he had been in talks with the Lions about a potential visit "for a little bit."
The 27-year-old believes there is an opportunity for playing time with the Lions opposite Darius Slay, another thing that made Detroit attractive to him. Walls said the coaches did not give him specifics on what his potential role would be.
"Darius Slay is one of the best corners in the league," Walls said. "But other than that at the corner position it’s a bunch of competition. With the new GM coming in, I think you see that. With the Patriots, they have a bunch of guys competing to get a chance to play."
Walls will likely be fighting Nevin Lawson, Crezdon Butler and Alex Carter for starting spots and roster spots this summer. Walls said he didn’t have any prior connections to the coaching staff and that his closest connection in the front office might be with Quinn and that’s only because Quinn had seen Walls play multiple times over the years when Quinn was in New England.
On the roster, though, there’s a lot of familiarity for Walls. By signing in Detroit, he became the fifth player from Notre Dame. Walls played at least a season with all four of them and said he still keeps in regular contact with running back Theo Riddick and wide receiver TJ Jones.
Walls said he didn’t reach out to any of his former college teammates currently on the Lions -- Riddick, Jones, Golden Tate and Braxston Cave -- before he arrived in Detroit because he wanted to go in with an open mind. He liked what he saw and signed.
"[The Lions] showed the most interest and I think we got the best deal out of it," Walls said. "I had a couple other teams scheduled in the works but after hearing what each team presented and offered, I felt it was the best fit.
"And I felt really comfortable with the coaching staff and the players that I know that are there."