May 9, 2014
By Brian Rice KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Ja'Wuan James spent much of his Tennessee career rewriting the Vol record books for offensive linemen. Thursday night, he added another accomplishment to his impressive resume: NFL First Round Draft Pick.
James became the 45th Volunteer selected in the first round when the Miami Dolphins called his name with the 19th selection. James was the second Vol taken in the first round in as many years after Cordarrelle Patterson's selection by the Minnesota Vikings in 2013.
The Suwanee, Georgia-native was one of 11 Southeastern Conference players selected in Thursday's opening round, the most of any conference. James was one of three SEC offensive linemen picked on the draft's first night.
"We're really excited about the skill set that he brings and the person that he is," Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey said. "We had a conviction for the player and we're excited to add him to our roster. He was the best player for us."
James said on Tennessee's Pro Day last month that he wanted to find the right situation in the NFL to do whatever it took to break into the rotation for a team. Now he has that chance in Miami.
"I really appreciate this opportunity," James told the media during a conference call following his selection. "I'm just going to come in and grind."
The Dolphins were on James' mind after meetings following UT's Pro Day and a workout in Miami. It turned out the feeling was mutual.
"The OL coach, he came to my school, talked to me for an hour after my Pro Day and we went over some things," James said. "I got an opportunity to go down there and it felt right. It felt like a great place to go in and work. Also, I have Dallas Thomas down there. He told me about the coaches and everything. It just felt great."
James started all 49 games at Tennessee at right tackle and projects to play the same position in the NFL. He will be reunited in Miami with one of the players he spent many of those games at UT next to on the line in Thomas, a third-round choice of the Dolphins in last year's draft.
"We are excited and I know he was very excited as we talked to him through our visit here," Hickey said. "A couple of times he grabbed me and said, `What do we have to do to get me here? I want to be here.' So I said, `We kind of have to go through the process here, Ja'Wuan.' He's pumped to be a Miami Dolphin, and we are really excited to have him as part of our organization."
The Dolphins saw the same value in James that Butch Jones saw when he took over the Volunteer program and convinced him to stay for his senior season at Tennessee.
"Ja'Wuan James bring so much value, to use National Football League terms, in terms of he can play multiple positions. He can play guard, he can play tackle, he's extremely athletic, he's bright, he's intelligent, he's tough," Jones said earlier this week. "It does not surprise me, all the attention that he's garnering right now. He's put himself in position to deserve everything that he gets."
James is the 12th Tennessee player drafted by the Dolphins and the fourth offensive lineman, joining Thomas, Harry Galbreath, who was an eighth-round pick in 1988 and John Boynton, a seventh-round selection in 1968. He was the first UT offensive lineman picked in the first round since Charles McRae and Antoine Davis were picked back-to-back with the seventh and eighth-overall selections in 1991.