Jimmy Moreland’s Path To The Draft

Jimmy Moreland’s Path To The Draft
Reading Time: 5 minutes.

It’s just 64 days until Roger Goodell puts the Arizona Cardinals on the clock to start the 2019 NFL Draft.

The next stop on the path to the Draft will be Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. That will be followed by a hectic schedule of Pro Days. They represent the last opportunity for players to showcase their talent for NFL teams.

In a series of articles on the run up to the NFL Draft, I will be looking at some players you should be getting to know now before they become familiar faces in the NFL.

Introducing, Jimmy Moreland…

Jimmy Moreland is a cornerback who played college football at James Madison University.

I had the opportunity late last week to chat with Jimmy about his time at JMU, the College Football All Star Games and get his thoughts on the draft process.

Moreland made his way to JMU via Royal Palm Beach High School, Florida and I asked him if he always wanted to be a footballer:

“I always dreamed about playing football, you know, growing up that was the only thing we knew about, playing sports…I grew up always wanting to play football”.

Despite playing both offence and defence at high school, it was defensive guys who inspired Jimmy growing up:

“I always wanted to be like Deion Sanders, you know. I watched Patrick Peterson a lot when I got in to high school and college”.

Watching some of his games at JMU, I was struck by how often he jumped the wide receiver’s route. I asked him to describe his style for people who hadn’t seen him play:

“I’m an energetic, fast guy. I know my technique, know the offensive system and create turnovers…I work on my skills, but also in the film room…learning the other teams tendencies”.

Tears and trophies at James Madison…

After a successful freshman year for JMU in 2014, Moreland was forced to sit out of football in 2015. Along with two team mates, he was charged with petit larceny and dismissed from the team. I asked him what it was like not being able to play for a year:

“It was hard, you know, ’cause I always played football and I didn’t know what to do at the time…luckily I was able to stay in school, keep my nose clean, and get back on the team…there were some nights I cried…I got myself better as a man”.

He came back strong and was part of two NCAA Division I Championship Games. In 2016, JMU won a National Championship with a 28-14 win over Youngstown State. I wondered what it was like to play in those games:

“Those games were amazing games to play in, ’cause not too many people get that opportunity. It was one of the best times I ever had, the whole week, the whole experience. Being able to get there too was an amazing experience”.

Breaking Records…

From his freshman year at JMU in 2014, through to declaring for the draft, it is obvious that Moreland has the talent to succeed. He had an interception in his very first game and leaves as the university’s leader in interceptions. He also holds the team record for interceptions returned for a touchdown and longest pick six (100 yards). Throughout his time there he picked up many honours. These include FCS First Team All-American, First team all-CAA cornerback and CAA Defensive Player of the Year. I asked him what the high points at the university were for him:

“I’d say every point was high for me, you know, it was a lovely place…I enjoyed every moment at James Madison and I just wanna thank God for giving me the opportunity to play there at their institution”.

Do the records that he leaves there with mean a lot to him?

“Oh yeah they mean a lot to me, cause I know now that a lot of guys know my name, coming through James Madison, and I set a goal for them”.

Getting a foot in the NFL…

As he heads towards the NFL, he will be setting goals for JMU players to follow there too. Coming from a Division I school, does it make it harder to get in to the NFL compared to being part of an FBS program?

“Not really…if you’re able to compete and show the team that pick you up what you’re capable of doing, you’ll be in the league a long time…teams will find you if you’ve got the stats and the quality, they’ll find you. Just keep working at it”.

Over the last few years, the profile of the cornerback position has changed and the trend in the NFL now is for bigger corners, with a longer reach. At 5’10” and 175lb, does Jimmy think his size makes it more difficult to make it in to the league?

“Sort of. It makes it harder to get drafted but not to get in to the league. Every team is looking for free agents to pick up…as long as I get my foot in the league and show teams what I can do in mini camp, I’ll be grateful”.

Starring at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl…

Photo Credit: Butch Dill (AP)

Moreland is certainly taking every opportunity to show what he can do. He earned an invite to the East-West Shrine game and I asked him what that week was like:

“Those were great experiences…getting to know everyone around. The part of the Shrine Game that was the most experience was the hospital visit with the kids that doesn’t leave the hospital at all. That visit opened my eyes to a lot, you know, seeing what they go through and what I’m grateful for having”.

After an impressive week, including a 50 yard return on a missed field goal, Jimmy became the first ever JMU player to be invited to the Senior Bowl:

“After the Shrine Game, I went home for a day and later that night they called my agent, they called me…got me right up there the next morning…both were great experiences. Not too many people can say they went to both All Star games”.

At the Senior Bowl, Moreland was coached by the 49ers staff and I wondered what that experience was like:

“It was a great experience with those guys. You can see how professional they are, everything they tell is to be a pro, you know, they tell us a lot during practices and meetings “be a pro”. You learn so much from those guys about how the schemes and things work in the NFL”.

Next Steps on the Path to the Draft…

Next week will see the NFL Scouting Combine hit Indianapolis. Moreland was another shock omission from there and I asked him for his thoughts:

“It’s no really big thing for me. It would be nice to be at the combine, but now I’m focused on my pro day. They can watch my film, they watch me compete in the two All Star games, so I’m just focusing on my pro day and not really worrying about the combine”.

He won’t be worrying about the opinions of draft analysts and mock draft projections either. There’s a lot of opinion flying around, but don’t count Jimmy as one player who listens to it:

“I don’t listen to those things a lot. I probably see them but I don’t pay attention to them. They predict, but they don’t really know what the teams are thinking so I don’t pay attention to them as much”.

Does he get a feel of what teams are thinking?

“I spoke to all 32 teams [during the All Star games] The teams that seemed the most interested were the Jets, Texans, Titans, Cardinals and Tampa Bay. But after the pro day happens, we’ll know which teams are the most interested”.

Whichever team takes him, they’ll be getting a player who is prepared for the long slog of rookie season:

“I’m training week in and week out, preparing my body for the NFL rookie run because everyone has been telling me that the rookie season is the longest of their career”.

If he brings the same production to the NFL that he did to James Madison, it could be the longest season of many.

Photo credit: jmusports.com

Thanks go to Jimmy Moreland. Also, thanks to Safarrah Lawson at STL Sports Group for his help in arranging this interview.

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