Jesse James will forgo his final year of college football eligibility and has declared for the NFL Draft, Penn State announced Monday.
The 6-foot-7, 271-pound tight end would’ve been one of the offense’s most experienced players, but will try to parlay that experience at the next level instead. James said he took time to consider his options and discussed his decisions with family, coaches and teammates.
”Competing on Sundays has always been my dream and I believe the time to pursue this dream is now,” James said in a release. “This was an extremely difficult decision to make. My time at Penn State has been amazing and unforgettable. I would like to thank Penn State University, Coach (James) Franklin, Coach (John) Donovan; along with everyone on our incredible coaching staff.”
James said he made “lifelong friendships” and thanked his teammates for the memories.
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On the field, James made himself known as a big target who could rumble downfield. He finished third on the team with 38 catches for 396 yards and three touchdown catches. James set the school record for career touchdowns by a tight end with 11, breaking Ted Kwalkick’s record in a game against Maryland. James is listed as the No. 2 tight end of the 2016 class according to CBSSports.com and is not ranked among the 2015 class.
A steady contributor over each of the past three seasons, James leaves Penn State having caught 78 passes for 1,005 yards. In his final game in blue and white, James caught three passes for 27 yards in a 31-30 overtime win over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27.
He is the third Nittany Lion to declare early following offensive tackle Donovan Smith and defensive end Deion Barnes. James plans to complete his degree at a later date.
“We want to thank Jesse for all he’s done at Penn State and wish him all the best in the NFL,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Jesse has been a big contributor for the program on and off the field and we’re looking forward to watching him at the next level.”
James’ departure doesn’t shake up a deep tight end corps too badly. Senior Kyle Carter remains the unit’s most experienced player while rising sophomore Mike Gesicki played in all but one game last season. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions will get sophomore Adam Breneman back from injury. Breneman started five games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury that forced him to redshirt in the fall. Reserve Brent Wilkerson also played in all but one game this past season.
Smith, Dieffenbach invited to all-star bowls
Two Penn State linemen will play in postseason all-star games, the athletic department announced Monday.
Guard Miles Dieffenbach has accepted an invitation to play in the 90th East-West Shrine Game and offensive tackle Donovan Smith will play in the 66th Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Smith is the third Penn State player who has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl where he’ll join safety Adrian Amos and linebacker Mike Hull. The game will be played at 4 p.m. Jan. 24 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. The NFL Network will carry the game.
The East-West Shrine Game will kick off at 4 p.m. Jan. 17 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.