Today in a move that surprised no one who truly follows HBCU football, Florida Gators transfer turned Jackson State Tigers sack master, James Houston, has decided to forgo his last season of eligibility to declare for the NFL Draft. This year Houston was an absolute terror in the SWAC, registering 16.5 sacks and 23 solo tackles for loss, only coming second to Florida A&M's Isaiah Land in all of Division I FCS in sacks and tying Land in STFLs. Houston's move to defensive end proved to be the key to unlocking his full potential on defense. Coach Deion Sanders recently compared James Houston to NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner Micah Parsons on the Rich Eisen Show. Coach Sanders said recently in an interview with Rich Eisen, "Kid just ball'ed out this year... he reminds me of that guy, and my whole pitch to him was Parson was an inside guy, now his outside, inside, he's everywhere, you could do the same...". Coach Sanders went on to say that similar to his time at Florida, Houston was an inside linebacker, but he would not have started for the Tigers if he remained in that position, so the coaching staff moved him to the rush end and as Coach Prime said, "My God, he broke records and he's phenomenal".
Coach Sanders is not the only one seeing NFL potential in James Houston. Houston has been invited to two senior all-star games, The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, played this year on January 29th, 2022, in California, and will be coached by former NFL head coaches Jeff Fisher and Marvin Lewis, and the East-West Shrine Bowl. The East-West Shrine Bowl will be played on February 3rd, 2022, in Las Vegas as part of NFL Pro Bowl Week. Houston will leave Jackson State having earned SWAC Newcomer Of the Year, FCS First Team All-American, Buck Buchanan Award Finalist, SWAC Title Game Defensive MVP, and a SWAC Championship ring. At 6'0, 225 lbs., Houston will have to prove to scouts that the dominance he displayed at the FCS level can transfer to the NFL. Guys that are currently dominating NFL offensive lines are guys like, Nick Bosa, Micah Parsons, Brian Burns, Trey Hendrickson, who all range near 6'3 or 6'4. Houston may have to add some weight, as successful 6'0 pass-rushers in the past have been a bit stouter. If you think back to guys like James Harrison, Dwight Freeney, or an Elvis Dumervil, who all dominated at 6'0 or under, but carried more weight on their frame. However, in today's NFL, defensive coordinators are finding creative ways to use guys like Houston to generate pressure on quarterbacks. Houston has completed two very important steps, like Coach Prime says, "Dominate where you're at...", Houston has done that without question. The second thing was to get invited to the all-star games that scouts attend, Houston can also check that box. Finally, it will be up to him to prove to NFL scouts that he is worthy to hear his name called on draft day.
Houston said goodbye to "Thee Jackson State University", the University of Florida, and his coaches in a heartfelt letter on Twitter. In his letter Houston echoed some of the things he said prior to the Celebration Bowl when asked to talk about his journey at Jackson State. In the press conference Houston said, "It's been an extreme blessing, just to be able to take part in this, to take part in history, this experience has been crazy, when I looked up in the stands and I just seen 60,000 of our people up there...it was a different feeling, I ain't never get to experience that, I ain't never get to see that and it's something I feel a lot of black men need to see, not everybody gets to witness that much love from our people..."
The Jackson State faithful and all supporters of HBCU football will be hoping for much success for Mr. James Houston as he seeks to realize his dream of playing in the NFL.