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Familiar Faces, New Places For Some Mountaineers In The NFL

With football season quickly approaching, it’s time the Mountaineer fanbase gets familiar with what uniforms and numbers our former athletes will be dawning this fall. 

Between several players starting the season with a new team, and a group of players now becoming valuable to their squads, there are quite a few stories to follow for these former WVU football stars.   

The Rookies 

As far as rookies go, there are only a couple to look at with a role locked down.  The lone WVU draftee in 2021 was Tony Fields II.  The Cleveland Browns selected Fields with the 153rd pick in the draft. 

Fields, a graduate transfer linebacker from the University of Arizona, became a staple of the 2020 West Virginia defense. In just one season in Morgantown, Fields showed to be a true ball hawk on the field.  He proved that by leading the team in tackles last fall, with 88.  Fields will wear number 42 this season for the Browns. 

The second rookie representative is Fairmont native Darius Stills.  Stills, as many know, was a standout defensive lineman that earned many accolades in his career at West Virginia, most notably being the 2020 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.  Stills managed to go undrafted, but signed a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders right after the draft ended.   

Darius has recently had a minor unknown injury, but it doesn’t appear to be holding him back any.   

Stills tweeted on August 14th, “Had A Minor Setback, I’ll Be Back on The Field Soon.”  That tweet was no lie, as Stills made his Raider preseason debut on Saturday against the Rams. 

Darius was originally handed number 79 as a jersey number, but with a recent waiving, Stills will get to rep his college number (56) in Las Vegas this season. 

To wrap up the rookies, we have a couple players with unknown futures. Those would be T.J. Simmons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Mike Brown with the New Orleans Saints.  Simmons and Brown both went undrafted, but signed deals with their respective teams to compete in camp. They are both looking to land a spot on the active roster. 

Veterans on New Teams 

Mountaineer fans will have to get used to some of their favorite players in different NFL uniforms.  The first of these is Tavon Austin. Austin, a former first round pick in 2012, has been bouncing around a few teams over the past couple of seasons, most recently with the Green Bay Packers.  The flashy receiver/returner now has a new home, and that is the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Austin will play his ninth season for a team with a new coach, quarterback, and identity.  The Jags fanbase has a lot to be excited about with first-year coach Urban Meyer and a first overall selection in quarterback Trevor Lawrence. 

Austin has already shown Jags coaching staff and fans what he can do, as he caught his first touchdown in a preseason game against the Browns last Saturday.  Austin has been wearing number 34 this preseason. 

Staying on the topic of wide receivers, we will look at Kevin White.  During the 2020 season, White was a part of the San Francisco 49ers.  The former seventh overall pick has had his share of injury-plagued seasons in his NFL career, but he’ll look to stay on the field as the New Orleans Saints have given him a recent opportunity.  White has been wearing number 17 at practice. 

The next Mountaineer veteran with a new deal is Karl Joseph.  Like Austin and White, Joseph is a former first round draft pick.  Back in 2016, the Raiders took the hard-hitting safety with the fourteenth pick, and he had four solid seasons with the club.  After spending the 2020 season with the Cleveland Browns, Joseph will return to the Raiders on a one-year contract.  You might remember Joseph wearing number 42 on the Raiders, but this year you will see him wearing 43. 

Another veteran safety with a new team entering the 2021 season is Daryl Worley.  Worley has spent time on the Panthers, Eagles, Raiders, Cowboys, and Bills over his five-year career.  His newest opportunity is with the Arizona Cardinals. 

Worley has already made his presence felt with his new team.  The former Mountaineer forced a fumble against the Dallas Cowboys in a preseason matchup a week ago.  Worley will wear number 27 this season. 

The last veteran we will look at is cornerback Rasul Douglas.  After a monster 2016 season for the Mountaineers, Douglas found success with the Philadelphia Eagles, where they won the Super Bowl in 2018.  After a year on the Carolina Panthers, Douglas will join the Las Vegas Raiders this season. 

With the addition of Douglas, the Raiders now have four former WVU players (Douglas, Stills, Joseph, and Nick Kwiatkoski).  Douglas will be wearing number 38 for Las Vegas. 

Potential Breakout Players 

The first player to highlight under this section is Kyzir White of the Los Angeles Chargers.  White was taken in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has been shining ever since.  

The athletic linebacker is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he made fifty solo tackles and four tackles for loss.  Look for Kyzir to be a star on the Chargers defense, and potentially WVU’s best NFL player in the 2021 season.  White will be wearing his usual number 44 in 2021. 

Next up on the list is Tennessee Titans linebacker David Long.  Long is entering his third season in the league, and 2021 could be his year to take off.   

While some consider him undersized for his position, Long is always around the ball making plays.  Long saw more snaps and better stats in 2020 compared to his rookie season, so look for him to sneak his way into a starting role or at least an important rotational role for Tennessee in 2021.  Long will continue to wear number 51 for the Titans. 

Finally, you should be on the lookout for David Sills.  Sills will be entering his third season in the NFL, and his second with the Giants.  Sills impressed in camp with the Giants last year but was sidelined for the year with a foot injury. 

Like last year, Sills has been productive in camp for New York.  On Sunday, Sills caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Lewerke in a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.  Look for Sills to make a push at legitimate playing time for the first time in his NFL career. Sills is currently wearing number 84 for the Giants. 

(Top Photo: Ben Queen)

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