Mountaineers in the Pros
Asti: Sam James Needs to Hope WVU Pro Day Opens NFL Eyes
A college program’s Pro Day may not be all that important for prospects who have been excelling throughout the draft process, but WVU football alum Sam James needs it more than any other.
Unlike Dante Stills and his fellow wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton, James wasn’t afforded the opportunity to impress NFL scours and coaches as much at the major offseason events for prospects. He wasn’t invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl like they were. The Senior Bowl didn’t end with James as the talk of Mobile, Alabama. And the NFL Combine didn’t end up being a weekend that James impressed with his 40 time like it was for Ford-Wheaton. It’s really just been the Hula Bowl for James, an event with much less fanfare attached to it.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton Delivers on Proclamation, Runs 4.38 in 40-Yard Dash
To this point, James hasn’t received the attention that a prospect who is assured a draft spot usually gets. This doesn’t mean he can’t get to the NFL, or that he couldn’t even help a team once there, but there are no guarantees for the former Mountaineer.
So what can James do to increase his stock? Well, outside of hustling on his own to promote what he’s doing and relying on NFL personnel to find something they like in his film, there’s WVU’s Pro Day.
At the Pro Day, James, and the other NFL Draft hopefuls out of West Virginia, will be able to undergo much of what occurs at the NFL Combine, either again, or for the first time. James, who despite being productive, was mostly used as a number three option for WVU in 2022, could open some eyes with a solid 40 time or vertical jump. But above all else, being able to show he can get separation and run the route tree may be what earns James his shot.
The Reality for Sam James
Listed at 5’11” and 183 pounds, James doesn’t overwhelm with size or length. If he’s to land on a roster and then “make it” in the NFL, it will happen because a team believes James, can move the chains and be a possible slot option.
To James’ credit, he did show significant improvement in his final season at WVU. Despite a change in system, dealing with multiple quarterbacks and being behind Ford-Wheaton and Kaden Prather, James managed to catch 46 balls for 745 yards and score six touchdowns. His yards and touchdown totals were career highs while his receptions were only topped once in 2019.
James was also able to put together a solid college career, even though he was recruited by Dana Holgorsen, not Neal Brown, the head coach he played under for most of it. He has the the heart and dedication, but those intangibles likely won’t be enough on their own.
Off the field, the Georgia native was selected to the Big 12 “Champions for Life” program due to his work in growing awareness about mental health.