We’ve focused most of our attention as of late on West Virginia’s attempt to conduct its preseason football workouts in the face of the global pandemic.
There are a number of former Mountaineers who are also preparing for their own football season, albeit of the National Football League variety.
There are 26 former WVU players currently on NFL rosters. Preseason camps for the pros will start later this month (July 25 for a couple and July 28 for the rest), and while there still could be changes to the preseason and regular season schedule in response to COVID-19 breakouts, the NFL is currently moving forward with its plans to start its regular season on time, beginning with the Texans vs. Chiefs on Sept. 10.
There is talk of cutting preseason exhibition games down to just two and obviously there will be numerous safety protocols in response to the coronavirus, but the NFL is moving forward with its 2020 season and there are plenty of former Mountaineers who will be attempting to make active rosters.
The 26 former West Virginia players who are currently preparing for the start of NFL preseason camps don’t include a number of others who were with pro teams last year but were free agents this offseason and haven’t yet signed with a new team. Wide receiver Tavon Austin, running back Wendell Smallwood, linebacker Najee Goode and wide receiver Marcus Simms are currently searching for new homes.
Picked No. 8 overall in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft by the then-St. Louis Rams, Austin has spent the past seven years in the NFL, the first five with the St. Louis/LA Rams then the last two with Dallas. He’s caught 213 passes in his 94-game career for 2,000 yards with 15 touchdowns. Though his stats have diminished greatly in his two seasons in Dallas (19 catches for 311 yards and three TDs), the 5-foot-8, 185-pound speedster is still likely to get another shot from an NFL squad, signing with a club before preseason camp begins.
Smallwood also is in search of new contract. Drafted in the fifth round by Philadelphia in 2016, he played in 37 games and rushed for 840 yards in three years with the Eagles. He was cut by Philly before the start of the 2019 season, but quickly picked up by Washington. He appeared in 15 games for that team, though getting just 22 rushing attempts and gaining 81 yards. He was not resigned by Washington after the season and is now a free agent who probably gets into a camp somewhere.
Though undrafted coming out of WVU in 2011, Goode found a long-term home in the NFL. He’s played eight seasons, splitting that time between four different teams. He was with Jacksonville in 2019.
The future for Simms is unclear. He signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted rookie free agent prior to the 2019 season but found himself on the Jaguars’ injured reserve and never played in a game. He was waived in early November. Further opportunities for the Bowie, Maryland, native are uncertain.
The other former Mountaineers who are headed to NFL preseason camps include:
Dravon Askew-Henry, DB, N.Y. Giants – A 2018 WVU grad, Askew-Henry signed an undrafted rookie free agent contract with Pittsburgh in the spring of 2019 but was cut by the Steelers prior to the regular season. He played for the New York Guardians in the short-lived XLF this spring. When that league folded, he signed on with the Giants.
Hakeem Bailey, CB, Kansas City – A starting cornerbsck for WVU in 2019, Bailey signed an undrafted rookie free agent contract with Kansas City this spring.
Yodney Cajuste, OL, New England – Drafted in the third round by New England in 2019, Cajuste spent the entire season on the Patriots’ injured reserve list, but now is reported healthy and ready for his first NFL action
George Campbell, WR, N.Y. Jets – Campbell arrived at WVU as a graduated transfer from Florida State prior to the 2019 season. He had a nice impact on WVU’s young receiving corps, finishing with 19 receptions for 469 yards and team-best seven touchdowns. He signed an undrafted rookie free agent deal with the N.Y. Jets this spring.
Rasul Douglas, CB, Philadelphia – Picked by Philadelphia in the third-round of the 2017 draft, Douglas is headed into his fourth season with the Eagles.
Shelton Gibson, WR, Philadelphia – Drafted by Philadelphia in the fifth round in 2017, Gibson spent two years with the Eagles, playing in 20 games, mostly on special teams, during that span. Released by Philly prior to the 2019 season, he signed with Cleveland and was a member of the Browns’ practice squad throughout the year. A free agent this offseason, he signed a one-year contract with his original club, Philadelphia.
Mark Glowinski, OL, Indianapolis – Drafted in the fourth round by Seattle in 2015, Glowinski is going into his sixth season in the NFL and his third with the Colts. He’s developed into a starting guard who was highly compensated with a new contract prior to the 2019 season.
Will Grier, QB, Carolina – A third-round draft pick by Carolina in 2019, Grier started a pair of games for the Panthers as a rookie at the end of last season after Cam Newton was injured. Newton has since left, signing with New England, but Grier’s future with Carolina is still unclear, as the Panthers added two free agent QBs in the offseason – Teddy Bridgewater and P.J. Walker.
Bruce Irvin, LB, Seattle – Drafted in the first round by Seattle in 2012, Irvin is headed into his ninth season in the NFL. His first four years were spent with the Seahawks, then he played two and a half years with Oakland, a half season with Atlanta and all of 2019 with Carolina. A free agent this past offseason, he signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks, bringing him back to where his pro career began.
Gary Jennings, WR, Miami – Drafted in the fourth round by Seattle in 2019, Jennings was released by the Seahawks in midseason but quickly picked up by Miami. He’s now one of 11 wide receivers currently with the Dolphins looking to earn one of the six or seven regular season roster spots for that position.
Karl Joseph, DB, Cleveland – A first-round draft choice of Oakland in 2016, Joseph played four years for the Raiders. He became a free agent this offseason and signed a one-year deal with Cleveland.
Nick Kwiatkoski, LB, Las Vegas – Drafted by Chicago in the fourth round in 2016, Kwiatkoski’s rookie contract expired this offseason, and he took advantage by signing a lucrative three-year deal with the Raiders.
David Long, LB, Tennessee – Drafted in the sixth round by Tennessee in 2019, Long recorded 15 tackles in his first NFL season, most of those coming on special teams.
Colton McKivitz, OL, San Francisco – A four-year starter at offensive tackle for WVU, McKivitz was a fifth-round draft choice by San Francisco this spring. He could be used at any of the o-line positions by the 49ers.
Josh Norwood, DB, Seattle – Norwood started for the Mountaineers the past two years, first at cornerback (2018) and then primarily at safety (2019). He went undrafted this past spring but signed a rookie deal with Seattle.
Adam Pankey, OL, Miami –Pankey has more often then not gotten an NFL check since graduating from WVU in 2017 but it’s not always been s smooth path. Undrafted, he signed as a rookie with Green Bay and bounced back and fourth between the Packers’ practice squad and active roster through 2017 and ‘18. He was a member of Tennessee’s practice squad early in 2019 but returned to Green Bay for an active roster spot on Sept. 21. He was waived by the Packers’ later that season but then was claimed by Miami, and he’ll now seek to earn a roster spot with the Dolphins in 2019.
Kenny Robinson, DB, Carolina – Robinson’s last 13 months have been hectic. A starter for the Mountaineer defense in 2017 and ’18, academic issues caused Robinson to be dismissed from WVU in the summer of 2019. He played this past spring for the St. Louis BattleHawks in the short-lived XFL, then was drafted by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in the fifth round. Because of his circumstances, he will be the only NFL draftee ever from the now defunct XFL 2.0. All other former XFL players were eligible to sign free agent deals with the NFL.
David Sills, WR, N.Y. Giants – Undrafted in 2019, Sills signed as a rookie with Buffalo but was released by the Bills before the regular season. The New York Giants then scooped him up and added Sills to their practice squad. He spent most of the 2019 season as a practice squad player for the Giants but did get called up to their active roster for the last regular season two games.
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle – A second round draft pick of the New York Jets in 2013, Smith is getting ready for his eighth NFL season. After three years with the Jets, he moved over to the Giants for the 2017 campaign. From there he was with the Chargers for a year before signing with Seattle to backup Russell Wilson in 2019. A free agent this offseason, Smith signed another one-year deal with the Seahawks.
Quinton Spain, OL, Buffalo – Undrafted coming out of WVU in 2014, Spain has put together a nice NFL career that is now headed into its sixth season. He spent his first three years as a pro in Tennessee, and then moved to Buffalo, where he was a starter in 2018 and ’19. An unrestricted free agent this past offseason, he landed a strong three-year deal to stay a Bill.
Keith Washington, CB, New Orleans – A starting corner for WVU in 2018 and 2019, Washington signed an undrafted rookie free agent contract with New Orleans this spring.
Elijah Wellman, FB, Green Bay – A native of Huntington, West Virginia, Wellman was a hard-nosed fullback for the Mountaineers, and now he’s trying to find a home in the NFL. He signed as an undrafted rookie free agent with Washington in 2018, but was waived with an injury settlement before the regular season. He was back for another try with Washington in 2019, but again was cut before the regular season. Now he’s in Green Bay looking to make the Packers’ roster.
Trevon Wesco, TE, N.Y. Jets – Drafted by the Jets in the fourth round in 2019, Wesco caught only two passes in his rookie season, though he did play in all 16 regular season games for the Jets.
Kyzir White, LB, L.A. Chargers – The former WVU safety was drafted by the Chargers in the fourth round in 2018 and quickly was moved to linebacker. An injury slowed him as a rookie, but he played all 16 regular season games for the Chargers last season, starting seven of those. He had 40 tackles on the 2019 campaign.
Daryl Worley, CB, Dallas – Worley is headed to his third team in his fifth NFL season. Drafted by Carolina in the third round in 2016, he spent his first two years with the Panthers, but then moved over to Oakland in 2018 and was the Raiders’ starting left corner the past two seasons. An unrestricted free agent this offseason, he signed a one-year contract with Dallas.
* * * * *
The Canadian Football League was slated to begin its regular season at the beginning of July, but the start of play for the CFL has been pushed back by the coronavirus. That league won’t play games until at least September, and there is even speculation its entire 2020 season could be cancelled.
If/when the CFL does take the field, it will feature at least two players with WVU ties.
Wide receiver Mario Alford spent portions of the 2015, ’16 and ’17 seasons in the NFL and is now hoping for a third season in the CFL. He played for Toronto in 2018 and was with Montreal in 2019. He is again signed with Montreal for 2020.
Defensive end Quincy Redmond came to WVU from Cumberland, Maryland, as a walk-on in 2013. After one season with the Mountaineers, he transferred to Fairmont State (W.Va.) University. Despite a spate of injuries, he proved to be dominant force for the Falcons at the Division II level. He tried to make the Miami Dolphins’ roster as an undrafted rookie in 2018 but was waived before the regular season. He signed with the Edmonton Eskimos this past winter and now is awaiting a chance to earn a spot with that CFL club.