West Virginia University added five names to the list of players the Mountaineers have had drafted into the National Football League this weekend.
Two players — quarterback Will Grier and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste — were the first WVU players taken late Friday in the third round when the Carolina Panthers grabbed Grier with the No. 100 overall pick and the New England Patriots picked Cajuste at No. 101.
For Grier, that means a return to his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina — where his family has owned season tickets to Panther games for years. It also means coming into professional football as the likely backup to former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity, and football is a team sport — it’s the greatest team sport there is,” Grier said to Panthers.com “The goal is to win at the end of the day, and it’s my job to ready to play whenever my name is called,” said Grier, who considers himself the best quarterback in his draft class but knows who’s the best quarterback in the building.
“With the situation as it is right now, I’m going to give Cam as much support as I can, try to do everything I can to try to make him a better player and play my role on the team, whatever that might be. Part of my job is to stay ready, whether it’s now or a couple of years down the road.”
Saturday’s session at the draft in Nashville, Tennessee saw three West Virginia players selected, including one state native.
Receiver Gary Jennings was the next Mountaineer selected when the Seattle Seahawks took the Stafford, Virginia native in the fourth round as the No. 120 overall pick.
Jennings finished 2018 with 54 receptions for 917 yards and 13 touchdowns. He played with a badly sprained ankle for much of the back half of the season and was productive despite that, however he did elect to skip West Virginia’s Camping World Bowl appearance to focus on getting healthy and ready for the NFL Draft.
Like Friday, WVU players went on consecutive picks again Saturday when the New York Jets drafted tight end Trevon Wesco at No. 121 overall.
Wesco, a Martinsburg native who was a standout in football and basketball at Musselman High, emerged as one of the best tight ends in the Big 12 in 2018. Wesco hauled in 26 catches for 366 yards and one touchdown last season, but was also one of the best blockers at his position in the league on his way to first-team All-Big 12 honors.
The selection puts Wesco in some elite company among WVU tight ends. The last Mountaineers to play that position selected in the NFL Draft was Anthony Becht, who was a first-round pick by the Jets — Wesco’s new home — in 2000.
Linebacker David Long went in the sixth round when the Tennessee Titans picked him up with the No. 188 overall pick.
Long, the 2018 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, was a second-team All-America selection by the Associated Press, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, Athlon Sports, Phil Steele and The Athletic.
The Cincinnati native played three seasons at WVU, saving his best for last. In 2018, Long led the Mountaineers and was fourth in the Big 12 with 111 tackles — including a league-leading 19 for a loss — while his eight sacks were the most by any WVU player and fifth overall in the league.
Long joins Barrett Green (2000), James Davis (2003), J.T. Thomas (2011), Najee Goode (2012), Nick Kwiatkoski (2016) as West Virginia linebackers drafted since 2000.
Former Mountaineer receiver David Sills did not hear his named called at the draft, but he did get a free-agent offer from the Buffalo Bills Saturday.
Sills came to WVU as a quarterback out of high school before spending one year at a California junior college then returning to the Mountaineers to play receiver.
The Delaware native led the Big 12 with 15 touchdown receptions as a senior in 2018. Sills caught 65 passes for 986 yards last season, but will now likely sign with a team as an undrafted free agent to begin his professional career.
WVU defensive back Dravon Askew-Henry also did not get to hear his named called in this weekend’s draft, but he too will get a shot at the next level.
Askew-Henry told the Gazette-Mail he plans to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent. The cousin of former NFL All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, Askew-Henry was a standout prep player during his days at western Pennsylvania’s Aliquippa High.
Now, like Grier with the Panthers, Askew-Henry will get the chance to play for his hometown team.
“I’m a Steeler,” Askew-Henry said Saturday evening when reached by phone. “It feels good. I’m a hometown guy. I’ve been waiting. I wish I could have got drafted but it went otherwise. They’re going to remember my name.”
Other Mountaineer players receiving free-agent offers Saturday night were defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow (New Orleans Saints) and safety Toyous Avery (Seattle Seahawks).