The NFL season is fast approaching. The annual Hall of Fame game was played Thursday night in Canton, Ohio, marking the start of the league’s preseason schedule.
While no former Mountaineers played in the contest, plenty of others are in NFL training camps across the country.
Former West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas is in a much different place in his career now than he was this time last year. Twelve months ago, Douglas was bouncing around from Las Vegas to Houston to Arizona, hoping to catch on and continue his NFL career.
“You get the right opportunity with the right coaches, and the right group of guys, anything is possible. I think that’s what happened here,” Douglas told reporters following practice earlier this week. “I took it and just tried to make the most of it.”
He caught on with the Packers. Douglas now has a three-year contract with Green Bay following a breakout season, and is part of what many are calling one of the best secondaries in the National Football League.
“I don’t listen to anything, because at the end of the day, we got to put it out there,” said Douglas. “They can say what they want, and we can say what we want, but if our actions don’t match it then it don’t matter.”
Kyzir White is also in a different setting now than he was a year ago.
In August of 2021, White was entering the final training camp of his rookie contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. Now, he is in his first preseason with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I feel real good, man. Just getting my feet wet,” White told reporters on August 1.
White was one of the leading tacklers in the NFL last season with the Chargers. He is now on an Eagles defense that’s looking to improve after allowing the highest opponent completion percentage (69.4) in the league last season.
He is also closer to home.
“I’m settling in real good. I’m right at home – a hour away,” White said. “I feel real comfortable. I get my family to come through to the games, and practices, and stuff like that. So I feel real comfortable, for sure.”
Sticking on the defensive side of the football, former West Virginia linebacker David Long Jr. also had his best season in the professional ranks in 2021.
He spoke earlier this offseason about being one of the leaders of the Tennessee Titans defense, and is continuing that effort in the build-up to the regular season.
“Just starting off hitting the ground running,” Long said when asked what he’s looking to improve on from last year. “Being consistent. Staying faithful in myself and in my team. Just keep building that confidence.”
While Douglas, White, and Long Jr. are established within their team or at their position, many West Virginia products are battling for roster spots in camp this month.
Smith is in entering his fourth season with the Seattle Seahawks, but after the departure of Russell Wilson in the offseason, has his first chance of being his team’s Week 1 starter since 2014.
“I feel great,” Smith told Seahawks reporters earlier this week. “When I’m out there, I feel like I have complete control over what I’m seeing.”
Smith is battling former Missouri quarterback Drew Lock for the starting job in Seattle. The Seahawks have not yet released an official depth chart for this season. According to the team’s website, that will be updated ahead of the first preseason game, which will be played on Saturday, August 13 in Pittsburgh.
“It means everything, it really does,” Smith said when asked what it means to have another chance to be a starting QB in the NFL. “It’s an opportunity for me, again, to continue my career, to lead the charge, to be the guy again. And, I mean, that’s what you want.”
The Mountaineer legend does have more NFL starting experience than Lock. He has also spent significantly more time in Pete Carrol’s system. Though, it remains to be seen which quarterback will win the job.
Week 1 of the NFL season begins Thursday, September 8.