There was a choice that had to be made by several West Virginia University football players in days and weeks that followed the end of the Mountaineers’ regular season.
For some, that meant cutting their time as WVU football players short, but for senior receiver David Sills the choice was an easy one. No chance he was going to pass up a final opportunity to play football for the Mountaineers.
Sills will get to do just that Friday when WVU takes on Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl (5:15 p.m., ESPN) in Orlando. It will be a final chance to be a college football player for the kid who was famously committed to play at Southern California as a 13-year old.
“It really wasn’t a hard decision for me,” Sills said last week in Morgantown. “I looked at it as another opportunity to put good film out there but also to end and leave with a win — something that I think is very important to me. This university and this state has done a lot for me, and I want to go out there and play and do everything I could lead this team and leave this university with a win.”
The Delaware native began his football career as a quarterback phenom. He canceled his commitment to USC after Lane Kiffin was fired by the Trojans in late 2013. Sills came to West Virginia to compete for the starting quarterback job in 2015, but after some initial reservations he agreed to play receiver late in his freshman season.
Sills hauled in a touchdown catch in his first collegiate game — a 62-38 loss at Baylor — and would go on to make a highlight-reel touchdown catch and run against Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl.
Being a quarterback, however, was still on his mind.
Sills left WVU after his freshman season to attend El Camino College in Torrence, California. The plan was to spend a season at the junior college as a quarterback and find another Football Bowl Subdivision landing spot. When the offers didn’t come rolling in, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen put in a call and invited Sills back to Morgantown to be a receiver.
As it turns out, Sills returned to WVU and became one of the best receivers in the program’s history.
With one game to go, Sills has racked up 2,007 yards and 35 touchdowns on 128 receptions during his Mountaineer career. The majority of that ha come during the last two seasons. In 2017 as a junior, Sills caught 60 passes for 980 yards a 18 touchdowns. This season he has 61 receptions for 896 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Still, with the prospect of an NFL career looming, Sills was not expecting to be immediately asked if his college career was over following the Mountaineers’ late November loss to Oklahoma.
“I mean, I knew [I wanted to play in a bowl game],” Sills said. “I didn’t think I was going to get that question right after the Oklahoma game. I just didn’t really expect that, but it was always [that] I wanted to finish out the season. I feel like receiver isn’t a very at-risk position. It’s not in the trenches or anything like that so it was a pretty east decision for me.”
After that loss to the Sooners, Sills also said he expected to play in a bowl with redshirt senior quarterback Will Grier.
That, of course, will not be the case.
Grier and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste announced several weeks ago they would skip the Camping World Bowl to focus on getting ready for the NFL Draft process.
Last week, Holgorsen announced receiver Gary Jennings, another potential professional player, had been playing with a high ankle sprain at the end of the season and would also miss the bowl game to get healthy.
Sills said he holds no ill will toward any of those players. They are his teammates and his good friends, and the choice to sit out the bowl game isn’t going to change that.
“It’s not something that I’m mad at them about the decision they made. It’s just their decision and everybody has got a different path. That’s their path that’s best for them I guess.
“I understand where they’re coming from. It’s a decision that they made. We’re all grown men here now, and it’s a decision that they made. They’re my great friends, so whatever decision they made, I’m all for.”