Sam James admitted he was disappointed when he was not invited to the NFL Combine when it was held in Indianapolis.
Twice since Coach Neal Brown’s arrival four years ago the former Richmond Hill wide receiver led West Virginia University in receiving yards, including last season, against Big 12 competition
Despite the upcoming draft—it’ll take place April 27-29 on the plaza of Kansas City’s Union Station—being top heavy in wide receivers some eyebrows were raised when James didn’t get his invite considering his overall body of work playing in arguably the second-best Power 5 football conference.
“I was, to be honest, upset,” James said in a phone interview from Morgantown, W.Va., where he has been working out in preparation for last week’s big day. “But I think it may have worked out for the best. We had scouts from 29 teams here and I got to spend time with each of them,” James said. “We did everything they do at the combine and I got more individual attention. It may have been better this way.”
James said while he got to interview with representatives from each of the NFL teams he said the New Orleans Saints, Washington Commanders and Houston Texans all spent extra time with him which was encouraging.
“I felt confident going in because of the work I’ve put in,” James said of the days leading up to his work out. “I was a little nervous because of what’s at stake.
“I think it all went well,” James said. “I hit all my goals. For the most part it went excellent in all the drills.”
James graduated in December but after declaring for the draft remained in Morgantown to take advantage of WVU facilities and training staff who have been working with him on getting bigger and stronger and improving his skill set.
Last fall James played at 178 pounds which scouts considered to be on the lightweight side for a receiver. The magic number, it seems, is 180 pounds and for his pro day he measured in at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds which made the scouts pay closer attention.
“It sounds better, looks better on paper,” James said of the weight gain. “I feel with my route running I shocked a lot of people, especially coming out of routes. I worked hard and did a lot of training. I really worked on my route details. All I worked on was going in and out of breaks. It paid off.”
James posted times of 4.5, 4.24 and 6.9 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill, respectively and also had a broad jump of 10 feet 2 inches and 36.5-inch vertical jump.
“Teams used different timing methods,” James said. “One got me at 4.2 in the 40. But, football speed is different than a 40 speed. I feel like I was always fast, so I was able to actually prove I am fast.”
James led the Mountaineers with 745 receiving yards last year season, was second in touchdown receptions with six and was third in receptions with 46. In 50 games in his WVU career he caught 190 passes for 2,229 yards and 15 scores.
In addition James was also one of WVU’s top special teams players and which he believes will improve his chances of making an NFL roster.
The son of Shirley Clark had one year of eligibility remaining thanks to getting a COVID year but he decided—especially having attained his degree—five years at WVU was enough.
“I’ve been here five years and I felt like I put everything that I was supposed to put on the field on tape and stuff like that,” James said. “I just felt like it was time to move on and chase NFL dreams.”