Penn State Football

Penn State football: Steelers pick James, Amos to Bears

Two more Nittany Lions heard their names called at the NFL Draft on Saturday, and three more signed rookie free agent contracts.

Tight end Jesse James and defensive back Adrian Amos were selected in the fifth round, with James heading to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Amos picked by the Chicago Bears.

They joined tackle Donovan Smith, who was chosen Friday night in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After the draft concluded Saturday evening, players who were not picked were free to sign with any team. Various media outlets or Twitter posts had offensive tackle Miles Dieffenbach joining James with the Steelers, defensive end Deion Barnes heading to the New York Jets and linebacker Mike Hull going to the Miami Dolphins.

The 6-foot, 218-pound Amos was taken by the Bears with the 142nd pick overall. He played safety this past season with the Nittany Lions after the team needed his versatility his first three seasons at both safety and cornerback, amassing three interceptions last season along with 42 tackles.

“I played corner most of my career and then moved over to safety, and I’ve been getting better and better at technique over the past year playing safety,” Amos said during a conference call. “I’ve played every skill position on the defensive side except for ‘Mike’ linebacker, so I have experience in the nickel position, the dime position, both safeties and both corners. So I think with my versatility I can come there and you can find somewhere for me to play on the field.”

Amos graduated in 3 1/2 years, earning his degree in December. He will join former Nittany Lion kicker Robbie Gould with the Bears.

“After graduating with his degree and now hearing his name called in the NFL Draft, I could not be happier for Adrian,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “He has quick feet and great ball skills that will help him on the next level. Adrian is a versatile defensive back that has worked really hard and will be a great addition to the Bears’ secondary.”

The 6-7, 261-pound James caught 38 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns last fall before declaring for the draft as a junior. He leaves with the Penn State record for career touchdowns by a tight end with 11, but he left the school early hoping he would be able to showcase his size and skills better in the NFL

“I didn’t get a chance to show how athletic I was,” James said. “I’ll get a shot to do that in the future.”

James was chosen 160th overall, and is the first Penn State product chosen by the Steelers since offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley in the seventh round in 2009. He also is the 25th Nittany Lion chosen by the Steelers, tied for the most among NFL teams.

“I am truly happy for Jesse,” Franklin said. “He has tremendous speed and skills for a guy his size; he is a just freak athlete. Jesse has the ability to be a tremendous offensive weapon for the Steelers. As he continues to work on his game at this next level, he has the potential to grow into a complete tight end.”

James was a standout at South Allegheny High School in the Pittsburgh suburbs before heading to Penn State.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “I think it’s a great fit. Being from Pittsburgh, I’m happy to go there. I couldn’t be more excited to get there and get to work.”