MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sam James is one of the most veteran players on the WVU football roster. He’s one of just eight current Mountaineers who predate the Neal Brown era.
“I’m just being faithful…faithful to the state. Not many of us left,” James said on Wednesday.
Being in the small group of players who have been with the program since 2018 also means James has experienced more changes than most, especially when it comes to coaches.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton is the only other pass catcher who has been on the roster the same amount of time as James. As they enter their fifth season with the program, they are adjusting to their fourth position coach.
“Honestly, that was a love-hate thing for me at first. When I was younger, I was, like, kind of mad and like ‘dang, coach leaving me again.’ But as I got older, I can understand this is a business. Business moves have to be made at some point,” James said.
James and Ford-Wheaton started their WVU careers learning from Tyron Carrier. Xavier Dye was the first receivers coach under Brown, and then Gerad Parker, who held the position for the last two seasons.
After Parker departed following the 2021 season, Tony Washington is the man currently holding the role for the Mountaineers.
With essentially a new coach every season, James struggled to build trust and a connection with whoever was the next man up.
“That was the difficult part, being able to open up and trust another guy coming in because personally you’re thinking, ’dang, I don’t really want to trust him, he’s just going to leave within 3 months,’ so that was the biggest thing for me,” James said. “Trust and being able to be open up to them coming in and their coaching style.”
Due to Washington’s background, his coaching style differs from his predecessors. He’s able to take a different approach – teach by example.
“I enjoy learning from him. He brings something different to the table,” James said. He was also in the NFL a couple of years so he was able to learn from a lot of receivers, quarterbacks, offensive coordinators, things like that. Him coming in helped us a lot because it’s a different perspective on things and a coach who actually played the position.. I’m not knocking any of my other coaches, they were great, especially coach Parker. I loved him, but it’s just different.”
While James has witnessed a revolving door of position coaches at WVU, they have each shaped his career in a different way. As he prepares for his final season, he’s found a way to make sure they are all reflected in the player he is today.