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A Jet all the way - Rooths to sign with New York

April 25, 2001

A Jet all the way - Rooths to sign with New York



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - James Rooths spent four years flying past defenders on the Shepherd College football field.

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Now, it's almost fitting, especially since the Rams record-setting kick returner and defensive back is now a Jet.

Shepherd's exciting All-American took the next step in his football career Tuesday when he announced he accepted a free-agent contract offer from the New York Jets for the chance of playing in the National Football League.

"All the hard work is paying off," Rooths said. "This is the goal I had and the goal I wanted to get."

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Rooths leaves Thursday to sign with the Jets before taking part in the five practices in the team's weekend minicamp. Rooths said he struck a verbal commitment with New York during last weekend's NFL draft.

"They showed a lot of interest in me and I chose the Jets," said Rooths, who had tryouts with 15 NFL teams on Shepherd's campus. "They have been out to see me three times and they didn't pick a lot of DBs (defensive backs) in the draft. A lot of the other teams took a lot of guys early, but the Jets just took one late in the draft."

The signing and the tryout ends a prolific career at Shepherd College where Rooths set the NCAA all-division record for punts return touchdowns with 11. In the process, the 6-foot-2 speedster changed himself from a recruited wide receiver into one of the better defensive backs to play at Shepherd College.

"He's got a shot," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "James will have his kick return abilities but we wanted him to improve at cornerback. He had a great year with interceptions. He became more aggressive and would go after the ball. And when he got it, he had the ability to do something with it.

"I would have been surprised if he didn't get a shot with all the attention and all the teams that came to campus to see him."

The Jets may have had some extra inside information on Rooths and his accomplishments. Shepherd assistant Bob Haley was able to give updates to his brother, who is an assistant with the Jets.

But Rooths made his own breaks in January during the Cactus Bowl, Division II's all-star game, leading his team in tackles.

For Rooths, it's the culmination of a longshot dream for a Division II football player to get his shot, even though he darted through his career in record-breaking fashion.

"This is what I have been working for for the last 11 weeks," Rooths said. "I'm not surprised. Playing for Shepherd and playing at Shepherd really helped me."

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