A pair or rookies from West Virginia University are making an impact for NFL teams this season.
First round pick Karl Joseph is a starting safety for the Oakland Raiders. Joseph was known for his hard-hitting style at WVU. He missed most of his senior season due to a knee injury, but that didn’t stop the Raiders from drafting him in the first round.
Joseph had an interception, fumble recovery and six tackles in the win against the San Diego Chargers this past Sunday.
Defensive end Will Clarke of the Cincinnati Bengals has three sacks already this season. Clarke is a third down specialist for the Bengals and helps with the pass rush.
Both of these players have teammates from their alma-mater WVU. Bruce Irvin, who started his career with Seattle and won a Super Bowl, signed as a free agent in the off-season with Oakland and is a linebacker/DE for the Raiders.
Adam Jones is a cornerback/kick returner for the Bengals and has had a couple of solid seasons with Cincinnati. He is now in his 7th season with Cincy and 10th in the NFL.
Mario Alford spent his rookie 2015 season on practice squad for the Bengals, seeing action in one game. He hopes to bring game-changing speed to Bengals’ receiving corps and special teams in a bigger way in 2016. At WVU he was a standout wide receiver and special teams player and led the Big 12 in receiving TDs (11) as a senior.
Kevin White was another rookie who was having a decent season at wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, but is now out with an ankle and shin injury. He was leading the team in receptions before getting hurt. He was a 1st round pick in 2015, but had to sit out the entire year with a shin fracture. Hopefully the talented receiver will be able to come back this season. He has two brothers -junior wide out Ka’raun White and freshman safety Kyzir White, who are currently playing for WVU.
Of course Tavon Austin is in his 4th year as a wide receiver and punt returner for the Los Angeles Rams. The speedy Austin, a former first round pick, is one of the top threats in the Rams’ offense. They moved to LA this year after playing in St. Louis. (His teammate Stedman Bailey is currently a graduate assistant at WVU after being shot last year in Florida. He was getting a lot of playing time before the horrible incident that nearly took his life.)
Will Johnson, a fullback/tight end, is now with the New York Giants. He started his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent.
Another rookie in the NFL is Philadelphia Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood. He has seen some action in the backfield and recently scored his first career TD for the Eagles.
Charles Sims is seeing significant playing time for the Tampa Buccaneers. Sims played his senior season at WVU transferring from Houston. Sims has been one of the top TD producers for the Bucs and has been getting more action in his second season.
Pat McAfee continues to be one of the top punters in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts. He is also the holder for the field goal kicker.
Geno Smith is the No. 2 quarterback for the New York Jets. Geno may get his chance as the starter since Ryan Fitzpatrick has not been performing well so far this season. Smith was penciled in as the starter last year, before getting his jaw broken in the pre-season and having to miss the first few games, thus losing his starting spot.
Don Barclay, an offensive lineman, is still on the roster for the Green Bay Packers. Barclay has started in the past, but is No.2 on the depth chart this season.
Other former Mountaineers on NFL rosters trying to earn playing time are Daryl Worley at defensive back with the Carolina Panthers, rookie Nick Kwiatkowski a linebacker of the Chicago Bears, Mark Glowinski an offensive lineman with the Seattle Seahawks, Shaquille Riddick a linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals who is in his second season and K. J. Dillon of the Houston Texans.
In years past we have had some great NFL players like Sam Huff, Chuck Howley, Bruce Bosley, Jim Braxton, Daryl Talley, Jeff Hostetler and Marc Bulger – just to name a few of the greatest.
These former Mountaineers are definitely making an impact in the NFL. This should definitely help with future recruiting for WVU when players see how many current Mountaineer players are playing professionally in the NFL.
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)