A month ago Justin Worley wasn’t even sure he would be able to pursue professional football because of a serious shoulder injury.
But Worley signed with an agency and on Sunday accepted a spot at the Cleveland Browns’ rookie mini-camp. Worley didn’t sign a contract but will have a shot to impress Browns management at the camp, set for next weekend.
“We plan to bring a lot of guys in,” Browns general manager Ray Farmer told Cleveland media. “Those guys will get a chance to compete against guys on our roster. We’ll make some determinations as to who should go to camp. Rookie camp will be a little different. We’ll have several rookies there. We’ll sign guys, we’ll bring guys in on tryout basis and we’ll see where we can unearth the next guy.”
Worley was a hot-shot at Northwestern, leading the Trojans to the 2010 state title, playing in the Shrine Bowl and being named the Gatorade National Player of the Year. He signed with Tennessee but endured an uneven and injury-dragged tenure in Knoxville. The Vols struggled throughout and Worley played for three head coaches. He appeared in 24 games, starting 17, and threw for 23 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Worley won the starting QB job before his senior year, but in 2014 alone he was sacked 29 times in seven games, and his Tennessee career was ended when he suffered a serious shoulder injury against Ole Miss. The rehab meant that Worley didn’t participate in the Vols’ pro day and it put his football future up in the air.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones told The Tennessean newspaper after Worley was shut down, “Now he goes from player Worley to coach Worley.”
By signing with the Browns, Worley has gone back to being a player. His mother, Angela, said Worley’s shoulder is at about 85 percent and he is still rehabbing it but felt it was sufficient to give the NFL a shot.
He is represented by Allegiant Athletic Agency, a Knoxville-based agency with a slew of current and former NFL players among its client list. Many have connections to the Tennessee Vols. Even if the Browns chance doesn’t pan out, Worley, who made the SEC’s All-Academic team from 2012 to 2014, will receive his Master’s degree this summer in sports management.
Worley wasn’t the only local to see his football career continue at the pro level over the weekend. Chester’s Kalon Davis also went undrafted but was snapped up shortly after by the Denver Broncos.
Davis, a former Chester Cyclone standout, spent five years at Clemson, playing all across the offensive line, nailing down a starting spot as a senior. But the 6-foot-5, 340-pound man-mountain was a crucial leader on a young Tigers o-line last fall. He played 903 snaps, the fourth-most by an offensive tackle in Clemson football history, and was named honorable mention All-ACC.
Davis is represented by Columbia’s Jay Courie of MCG Sports, a firm that represents several NFL players with connections to Clemson and South Carolina.
Where Davis and Worley’s NFL careers are just beginning, Keon Stowers’ never got started. He had hopes of being drafted but when he wasn’t selected in the seven rounds, the former Northwestern Trojan decided to hang up his cleats. He felt a torn pectoral muscle scared teams away from picking him, and though he had mini-camp offers from several teams, he wouldn’t be able to participate because of the injury suffered during his pro day workout.
“I’ve been planning for this day for a long time just didn’t think it would come this soon,” Stowers said in a text to a Herald reporter. “But God has a plan!”
Stowers added that he has two job interviews lined up with Fortune 500 companies after recently graduating from the University of Kansas. A big reason behind his decision is his young family; he recently became engaged to Carley Baker, the mother of their son, Dallas.
Stowers picked up football late in his career at Northwestern but showed enough potential in two seasons under coach Jimmy Wallace to earn a scholarship to Georgia Military College. From there he landed at Kansas and was a productive defensive tackle for the Jayhawks, despite the program’s struggles to find success under Turner Gill and Charlie Weis.
As of Sunday evening, there was no word yet on another former Trojan, Brandon Williams.
Williams was a Shrine Bowl selection his senior year before spending a season at Hargrave Military Academy. He walked on at East Carolina, before grabbing a starting job at linebacker as a junior. Last season as a senior, Williams made 124 total tackles, 13.5 tackles-for-loss and five sacks for the Pirate defense. The former Trojan earned a number of team awards at its postseason banquet, including best leader.
Williams is being represented by Mike Celli of Aggressive Sports.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T
The story on Justin Worley joining the Cleveland Browns for their NFL mini-camp had several inaccuracies or misleading statements. Worley didn’t have a change of heart about playing in the NFL; he recovered sufficiently from his shoulder surgery to be able to play.
Worley will join the Browns for their mini-camp, which is set for next weekend, not June. And he didn’t sign a short-term contract with the team; he just received an invite to the camp. The Herald regrets these errors.