More than 20 former West Virginia football players were under contract with teams in the National Football League at some point last year.
Some of them played big minutes on Sundays, while others played minor roles for their organizations. Others spent time on practice squads as they tried to continue living out their dream of playing in the NFL.
As the new league year gets underway at 4 p.m. on Wednesday March 16, nine former Mountaineers are looking for new teams to play for.
But that’s just in the NFL.
Three former WVU players have been selected to play for teams in the renewed USFL.
Former West Virginia offensive lineman Mike Brown is joined by former defensive back Dravon Askew-Henry on the New Jersey Generals. And another former member of the WVU defensive backfield, Keith Washington II, was recently selected by the New Orleans Breakers.
The eight-team 2022 USFL season gets underway on April 16. Games will be televised on NBC and FOX Sports platforms. A full TV schedule can be found here.
There are three groups of former Mountaineers in the National Football League: Players under existing contracts, free agents looking for new teams, and players who have been signed to a reserve/future contract that will be battling for a roster spot.
Former WVU Players Under Contract
Ten West Virginia alums have a spot on a roster heading into the 2022 season.
Five of those players, including Will Grier and David Long Jr., are playing on the last year of their rookie deals.
Grier enters his last guaranteed year with the Dallas Cowboys, though has not seen the field in the regular season. Long, meanwhile, has been a productive part of the Tennessee Titans defense, and set a career-high in total tackles (75) last year.
Along with Grier and Long Jr., Carolina safety Kenny Robinson, New England offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste, and New York Jets tight end/full back Trevon Wesco are all entering the final year of their rookie contracts.
Linebacker Tony Fields II, meanwhile, is entering just the second season of his rookie contract after being selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 5th round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Fellow linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski ended last year on injured reserve with the Las Vegas Raiders. The 2022 season will mark the final year on the three-year deal that Kwiakoski signed with the Raiders after the 2019 campaign. The 2016 4th-round pick will play in his seventh year in the league this year.
Seven-year veteran offensive lineman Mark Glowinski reportedly struck a three-year deal with the New York Giants on Monday. That means that Glowinski will now be teammates with fellow former Mountaineer David Sills V, who also recently signed a new contract with the club, according to the team.
Colton McKivitz, who blocked for Grier while he was throwing passes to Sills V at WVU, has struck a new contract with the San Francisco 49ers, according to the organization.
Former Mountaineers who are free agents
Nine past West Virginia playmakers are looking for new contracts in the NFL, and each are under different circumstances.
Three players — Karl Joseph, Wendell Smallwood, and Daryl Worley — hope to catch on with a new team after spending most of last season on the practice squads of their respective teams. Worley saw the most in-game action of the trio, as he appeared in three games for two different clubs in 2021.
Three others — Bruce Irvin, Tavon Austin, and Geno Smith — are veteran players who played sparingly last season and will be looking to stay in the league.
Irvin caught on with the Chicago Bears in the second-half of the season, and appeared in six games.
Austin suited up for 13 games and started three with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year. He is an unrestricted agent and is able to sign with any team. Austin will look to catch on with an organization for what he hopes is his 10th year in the NFL.
His former teammate at WVU, Smith, is also an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Smith appeared in four games, and started three, for the Seattle Seahawks.
The final three former Mountaineers in this group that have yet to be mentioned all played very key roles for their pro teams in 2021. They’re at various levels of their career, but could be in for a good pay day.
The largest contract could be in store for linebacker Kyzir White.
White was excellent in the final year of his rookie contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. He led the team and was eighth in the NFL with 144 total tackles. White is the 68th-best free agent in the NFL, according to NFL.com, but is young and productive enough to be on the receiving end of a sizable contract.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas made the most of his time with the Green Bay Packers last year. He started nine games during the regular season, and one in the playoffs. He also doubled his career interception total and scored two touchdowns. Douglas is rated the 49th-best free agent by NFL.com.
The final former Mountaineer to mention in this group is Quinton Spain, who is once again a free agent after playing on a one-year contract in 2021 with the Cincinnati Bengals. That contract worked, as Spain continued to be a veteran presence, and started every game but one for a Bengals team that made it to the Super Bowl. Spain, however, is not expected to return to Cincinnati.
WVU Alums Signed to a Reserve/Future Contract
A total of five former Mountaineers have signed a Reserve/Future contract with one of the 32 NFL teams.
All of those deals were signed in January.
Gary Jennings and Darius Stills have signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Offensive lineman Adam Pankey has signed on with the Miami Dolphins.
Wideout Kevin White remained in New Orleans on a Reserve/Future deal.
All five of those players will fight for spots on the active roster or practice squad throughout the offseason and preseason.