Feb. 11, 2009
James Casey of Rice is writing a weekly diary on NFLPlayers.com (the official web site of the NFL Players Association) about his experiences as he prepares for the NFL Draft at the end of April. NFLPlayers.com has allowed his diary to be reprinted here at Riceowls.com. He uses his first entry to introduce himself.
For those of you that may not know my story, I feel like this is a good time to introduce myself and explain how I got here, preparing for the 2009 NFL Draft.
I was drafted out of high school in the seventh round by the Chicago White Sox as a right handed pitcher. I played minor league baseball for a while, but it didn't work out for me. Although I threw really hard, I didn't have much control. After I got released from the White Sox, I played a year of independent baseball, but I didn't think I would make it to the major leagues. So, I decided to give football another try, figuring I had a good shot of playing collegiate football somewhere.
At that time, I hadn't played football in four or five years so I knew it was going to be tough. I had a guy who was a sophomore when I was a senior in high school that ended up walking on at Rice and I gave him some information, which he gave to the coaches. They showed interest right away, talked to me a while, then asked me to come on an official visit, and then they offered me a scholarship. I was stunned, but I knew I couldn't turn down an opportunity to get a scholarship from Rice University with the great academics they have there. I was trying to sell myself as a quarterback, but they gave me the linebacker-safety scholarship, and ultimately I told myself I couldn't turn down an education from Rice.
When I got to Rice, I was only there three days and then Coach Todd Graham left to go to Tulsa. I realize now that I've had some things happen in my life that I thought were the worst things that could have happened to me, but they ended up being great things. If they wouldn't have happened, I wouldn't be where I'm at right now. Anyway, when I got there I actually came in during the spring as a 22-year-old freshman and the new coach (Coach David Bailiff) made me the starting defensive end. I played there for a bit, but kept talking to the coaches about letting me play quarterback. They finally took a look at me and moved me to quarterback for the first day of two-a-days going into my freshman year. I started off the regular season doing short-yardage quarterback stuff, like Tim Tebow did as a freshman. As the season went on, they had some wide receivers go down so they moved me to receiver and saw that I could catch pretty well. As the season progressed, I got more involved in the offense at wide receiver, tight end and H-back. I also continued to play some at defensive end, and in all had a really good freshman year.
When I came back for my sophomore year, I played some at running back, quarterback, wide receiver, slot receiver, tight end and just seemed to play a bunch of positions on offense. I had a really good year with 111 catches for 1,329 yards, and I also rushed the ball a lot from the running back and quarterback positions.
Looking back, I learned a lot through baseball and told myself I was going to work hard and not have any regrets. As far as school-wise, I was married and I was older, so I wasn't going out partying or anything like that. I was purely focused on school and football. I ended up being an academic All-American at Rice, which is one of the things I'm most proud of. Just being older and more mature, I remember what I was like at 18, and I know what it takes now. I'm so much more mature, focused and hard working. I've got my priorities straightened out, but for a lot of younger guys, it's hard to have your priorities where they should be. You really can't learn that until you experience some things. Having that experience was tremendously beneficial to me being an older guy starting out college. I was triple majoring in economics, managerial studies and sports management, and I was minoring in business. I took 18 or 19 hours every semester and I took 9 hours every summer, so I was on pace to graduate in two-and-a-half years. I just finished my sophomore year in football, but I'm a senior academically. I only have 29 hours left to graduate, so I'm going to come back as soon as possible to finish that up.
Right now, I'm trying to meet the high expectations I set for myself and hope to get a shot at the next level. I really sat down after the season to think about forgoing two years of eligibility. There were a lot of factors that went into it, and like I told the team, it was the hardest decision I've ever had to make. I didn't want to let the team down. I didn't want to let the coaches down. I didn't want to feel like I was deserting the team and taking off. They were very understanding, but the biggest reason I had to move on was because I'm 24. There's a big difference between being 24 and 25. I felt like, I'm 24, I'm married, I have my wife Kylie that I'm responsible for, and through baseball, I realized that your window for success is very small. Deep down, I feel like this is my best opportunity to continue doing something that I love to do and to fulfill my dream of playing in the NFL.
Next week, James will check in before he heads to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He will workout with the tight ends on Saturday, February 21. Rice wide receiver Jarett Dillard will work out on Sunday, February 22.
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