Updating news and notes on West Virginia University athletic alumni:
You remember wide receiver David Sills V, the touchdown machine on the other end of quarterback Will Grier’s passes for two years at WVU, catching 125 passes for 1,966 yards and 33 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons.
That put him in position where it was expected he would be selected in the NFL draft, but that did not come to be. He was overlooked in the draft, signed as free agent by Buffalo, released, signed with the New York Giants as a free agent and then injured.
Struggling to make it, though, was nothing new to him. He had come to WVU as a quarterback but was moved to wide receiver, where the first pass he caught was a touchdown. He felt at the time that he wanted one more shot at quarterback, so he went to junior college in California for a year to see if he could interest a major school in him as a QB.
When that failed, he returned to WVU, teamed with Gary Jennings to catch Grier’s passes and gave the Mountaineers one of the great receiving duos in their history.
Sills is in camp again with the Giants and to date, fully healthy, has been the star of the show.
“He’s making a lot of plays for us,” Giants head coach Joe Judge said. “He comes out, works hard every day. Sills is a guy who does everything you ask. He gives 100 percent. He’s a guy you have to tell ‘Slow down a little bit.’ You never have to tell him to get going.”
In other words, nothing has changed since he was doing his thing at WVU.
You might recall how he bonded with Grier here, and the two spent most of their time working on their game together during the offseason.
Sills has done that with Giants quarterback Daniel Jones this offseason.
“Basically, he followed Daniel around the country,” Judge said. “Wherever Daniel was, he was there to catch passes. That’s someone really invested who is giving himself every shot he has.”
Last season wasn’t easy as he tried to recover.
“The message was, ‘Stay positive. We’re gonna work with you, get you healthy and back on the field where you can compete. Stay mentally engaged, stay involved with the team, being a good teammate,’” Judge said. “That’s something he definitely did. He was in there every day with the strength staff, the rehab staff, smiling, good energy, challenging other guys.
“I know it hurt him because of the work he put in on the front end to get out here and compete. It was unfortunate what happened last year.”
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Former WVU right-handed pitcher Alek Manoah, the Toronto Blue Jays’ top pick in the 2019 draft and the 11th overall selection, has gotten off to an unprecedented start to his major league career.
Manoah is the first pitcher since at least 1901 — you read that right, 120 years ago — to start a major league career by allowing four hits or fewer in 10 straight starts.
He has been dominant enough to now possess a 4-1 record to go with a 2.58 ERA, and he is just getting started.
The way he is pitching, he is probably the second-biggest thing in Canada to the gold medal-winning women’s soccer team.
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There is news on the Rich Rodriguez front, too.
Fired at Arizona and out of coaching last year, the former WVU head coach was hired by another West Virginia native, Terry Bowden, as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Monroe this year.
This week, Bowden announced he was leaving the team to spend time with father, Hall of Famer Bobby Bowden, who had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. (The elder Bowden passed away on Sunday morning.) He turned the team over to Rodriguez on an interim basis while he spent time with the family.
Bobby Bowden, of course, got his big-time head coaching start at WVU before going to Florida State, where he turned the Seminoles into a national power.
“There’s a spiritual side of me that thanks God for all the good times I’ve had with my father,” Bowden told the Monroe (La.) News-Star before his father passed. “We’ve known for a couple of weeks it was terminal.”
“The knowledge that with Rich here and us being close, I have no problem turning it over to him because he’s done it almost as long as I have. I’m comfortable enough in my shoes to let him step in and know that our program will run smoothly.”
“It’s going to be a seamless transition,” Rodriguez told the paper. “I’ve got a lot of experience doing it, but I know what he wants, and having gone through a spring makes it easier. Our guys understand how the practice schedule will go, and obviously the intensity and urgency to get ready is a lot more now.
“Every day is so valuable, but we’ve already got the plan and we’ll execute it.”
Rodriguez’s son, Rhett, who transferred from Arizona, is the likely starter at quarterback this year.