It’s a homecoming of sorts for former Florida State and now L.A. Chargers safety Derwin James at the Pro Bowl in Orlando this weekend. James has had quite the rookie year in the NFL after being taken in the first round by the Chargers last April.
The season culminated with his team making the playoffs and winning their Wildcard game in an upset at Baltimore with a tremendous defensive performance. Unfortunately, they were beaten decisively the following week by the now, AFC Champion Patriots ending their 2018.
Still, for James he’s come a long way in a short amount of NFL time, and has apparently a very bright future ahead of him.
Consider the end of James’s college career at FSU.
He basically did not play in 2016 due to a knee injury suffered early in the season that required micro-fracture surgery and rehab. Head coach Jimbo Fisher stressed to James that he needed to think about his long-term future, including the pros and not rush back that year.
The Seminoles went on to have a good finish to the 2016 season and even won their Orange Bowl game against Michigan with James watching the entire time.
Fast forward to the disastrous 2017 season for Florida State, as they floundered after starting quarterback Deondre Francois was injured in the opener with Alabama. And, it became more apparent as the year went on, that Fisher was looking to exit more so than trying to coach up the Noles into being better.
James was solid but not spectacular in terms of stats, but the FSU continued to struggle to win games. Fisher did leave for Texas A&M late in the season. A season ended with Florida State barely making .500 at 6 – 6 and James electing to sit out their Independence Bowl game with Southern Miss looking towards his NFL future.
As we have written on more than one occasion since James was drafted by the Chargers later in the first round, both the Buccaneers and the Dolphins (who had need at safety) passed on the chance to get the Florida State star.
In Miami’s case they went with a fellow defensive back, who could help them at safety as well, in Minkah Fitzpatrick. He was good, but not spectacular in what turned out to be a 7-9 Miami season.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay chose massive Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea instead of James to help in their secondary. The Buccaneers pass defense, and secondary specifically, was so bad the first half of 2018 that defensive coordinator Mike Smith was fired mid-year.
While the Bucs were better in the second half of the season they still finished 5-11. And, it’s only more fueled the outrage of some by Buccaneer fans and criticism from some media on the decision to have passed on James, when there was clearly a need.
And, then James developed and starred out in Los Angeles into one of the top safeties in all of the NFL, as their 2018 progressed. The analytics guys at Pro Football Focus have raved about James all year:
Derwin James has been the top rookie safety in the NFL this season. pic.twitter.com/BMfxhpsiF1
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 12, 2018
He helped the Chargers to a 12 – 4 record and the playoff success that we mentioned above.
And in addition to the on-field winning success, James graded out as one of the best young players in the NFL last season. That has to have the Chargers and their fans smiling for the future with James part of it.
Just as James has been smiling at Disney’s Wide World of Sports this week, coming back to his home region Haines City in Central Florida, as part of the AFC Pro Bowl team.
— Bill Kemp (@BillKempSports) January 24, 2019
For most young players it’s not only a reward, but a fantastic opportunity to be around and even bond with some of the other great players from other teams in the NFL in this relaxed all star format.
And, Derwin James is clearly getting to do that based on what he earned his first year in the league with the Chargers.
And good news for James is: he has the chance to be even better for a long time to come.
And, that’s worse news for the Chargers opponents and those that passed on the had the opportunity to grab him last April.
FSU and LSU announced two game neutral site series Tuesday
In an effort to continue to beef up their out-of-conference schedules, FSU announced on Tuesday that they will play newly-crowned National Champion, LSU in two neutral site games coming soon in 2022 and 2023.
The Seminoles made the announcement through social media and their website that they will be playing the “Bayou Bengals” first in New Orleans and then, in Orlando:
Noles vs. Tigers set for '22/'23!!!https://t.co/nfLwLGhXE3
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) February 11, 2020
Both teams will be given the benefit of essentially a “home-away-from-home neutral-site game” on Labor Day weekend. LSU considers New Orleans to be their second home and just won the College Football Playoff National Championship game over Clemson there on January 12.
The first game with the Noles will be on Saturday night September 4th, 2022.
FSU will, then play “hosts” in Orlando against the Tigers the following year on Saturday night September 3rd. The Noles recently played a season-opening game with Ole Miss, whom they defeated, at Camping World Stadium in 2016.
New Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell had this to say in the school statement about adding the games coming soon,
“I’m excited about this series,” head coach Mike Norvell said. “Florida State has a rich tradition in Louisiana, the home of many former Seminoles including Warrick Dunn and Travis Minor, and all three of our national championship teams had at least one player from Louisiana. It continues to be an important area for us now. We added two players from Louisiana in our first signing class, and it will be great for them and other future Noles to be able to play back in their home state.
This series matches two of the iconic brands in college football, and I know our fans will have a great time in New Orleans and Orlando. I want to thank our administration for all their hard work on this and for continuing to pursue first-class experiences for our student-athletes.”
These will be the 10th and 11th times that Florida State and LSU will meet. The Noles hold a 7 – 2 advantage, including winning four straight games in the series. It is the first time the two schools will have played since 1991.
Further, Florida State is 9 – 2 in their last 11 games opening a season on a neutral field. The Seminoles were to have played Boise State in Jacksonville last Labor Day weekend, but the threat of Hurricane Dorian moved the game to Tallahasse.
That’s where the Broncos upset the Seminoles and sent coach Willie Taggart into a second year spiral that resulted in his firing in November.
The Noles are also 8 – 2 all-time in games at the Superdome with the most prominent one coming in the BCS Championship Game win over Virginia Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.
Deion tells Dan Patrick he’d consider coaching Hurricanes
NFL Hall of Famer and former Seminoles All-American defensive back Deion Sanders is making the rounds for broadcast outlets at Super Bowl 54 in Miami,. And it’s not just his NFL Network duties that made some news on Tuesday. Rather, it’s an interview, where he expressed more desire for coaching college football and maybe, even in the city where he currently is working this week.
Sanders appeared on The Dan Patrick television – radio show Tuesday in advance of the 49ers and the Chiefs meeting for pro football’s title at Hard Rock stadium Sunday night.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) January 28, 2020
And, while most of the interview centered around the NFL and the Super Bowl match-up, Patrick naturally turned to Deion’s desire to apparently be a head coach in college football and maybe, as soon as next year.
This subject came up after Sanders was apparently under consideration to possibly be the new head coach at FSU, when they fired Willie Taggart in early November. The school and AD David Coburn did confirm that they had a serious formal discussion with “Prime Time” about building a staff, etc.
That’s when Patrick turn the questioning to Sanders’ son and what might test his loyalty to FSU and possibly, coaching at a hated-rival like the University of Miami.
“What if ‘The U’ called?” Patrick asked.
“You know what is so funny, cuz I saw that when I was watching you on television (earlier in the day when Patrick said he would ask Sanders about Miami). My son is a phenomenal quarterback. My youngest son. He has a plethora of offers. We’re going to visit ‘The U’ on Saturday,” Sanders said.
“But would you coach the U?,” Patrick quickly asked again.
“You know what. You never know,” Sanders replied leaving the door open, like most do.
“Are you a ‘package deal’ with your son,” asked Patrick?
“I’ve never been a package deal with any-body,” Sanders shot back, which drew laughter from the studio audience at Patrick’s Super Bowl show site.
Now, the Hurricanes have obviously floundered for much of the 2010s, including 2019 with first-year coach Manny Diaz struggling mightily down the stretch of his first season. Miami lost it’s final two games to finish 6 – 6, and then, were shutout humiliatingly by Louisiana Tech 14 – 0 in the Independence Bowl.
Miami has swapped offensive coordinators after Diaz fired Dan Enos after just his first season. The Canes have hired former Auburn and SMU play-caller Rhett Lashlee to replace him. And, they secured Houston dual threat transfer QB D’Eriq King for this season.
Sanders was a two-time All-American at Florida State (1987, ’88), and won the Jim Thorpe Award during his final season playing for the Seminoles in 1988. He was selected in the first round of the 1989 draft by the Atlanta Falcons and played in the NFL through the 2005 season.
His elite level of play earned him inductions into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sanders has been analyst for the NFL Network for the past 10 years and clearly has the desire to try something else.