Scouting Combine Receivers: Mims Leads Texas Trio
Part 5 of our six-part preview includes the Texas trio of Baylor’s Denzel Mims, SMU’s James Proche and TCU’s Jalen Reagor, as well as the son of a former NFL player.
Denzel Mims, Baylor (6-3, 215): Mims narrowly missed finishing his career with 3,000 receiving yards. Most of the damage came his final three seasons, with 61 receptions for 1,087 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore, 55 receptions for 794 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior and 66 receptions for 1,020 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. His four-year totals were 186 catches, 2,925 yards (15.7 average) and 28 scores.
What happened in 2018? “I wasn't focused, I wasn't myself the whole season, I wasn't healthy,” he told the school athletics site. “I knew coming into this season that I had to handle my business and be there for my brothers, because there were a lot of times last year where I wasn't there when they needed me, and I wasn't making the plays they were expecting me to make. So, I knew I had to do a whole lot better.” Before his monster 2017 season, he lobbied to switch positions and play cornerback. “I knew they had a defensive mind-set, and I felt it was my chance to show myself,” Mims told the Waco Tribune. “I honestly felt I could have been a high pick at corner. They saw me practice a few times the first few days, and they were like, ‘No, we want you at receiver.’ So they saw what I could do at receiver, and we just took it from there.” At Daingerfield (Texas) High School, he was a state champion in the 200 meters. In fact, he was a four-sport standout in high school. Other than pitching, all of those tools were on display when he caught 11 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns vs. Oklahoma as a sophomore. “I hurt my arm when I was pitching as a freshman in high school,” Mims, a former high school quarterback, told the Waco Tribune after that game. “I still can’t throw a spiral at all.” An uncle, David Mims, is a former Baylor running back.
Darnell Mooney, Tulane (5-11, 175): With four productive seasons, Mooney finished his career with 154 receptions for 2,572 yards (16.7 average) and 19 touchdowns. His best season came as a junior, with 48 catches for career highs of 993 yards, 20.7 yards per catch and eight scores.
Mooney, a native of Gadsden, Ala., is driven by the memory of his father who died of leukemia when Mooney was a high school sophomore. “When my father passed, I felt like I had to step up for my siblings and my mom,” he told Nola.com. “I had to give it all for my family and never take a day off, to make sure I could feed my family. I couldn’t be a kid anymore.”
K.J. Osborn, Miami (6-0, 206): Osborn spent four years at Buffalo before playing a graduate season with the Hurricanes in 2019. After catching 53 passes for 892 yards and seven scores as a redshirt junior for the Bulls in 2018, he caught 50 passes for 547 yards (10.9 average) and five touchdowns for Miami. His four-year totals were 146 receptions for 2,037 yards and 17 touchdowns as a receiver and averages of 12.1 yards on punt returns and 19.6 yards on kickoff returns.
After playing three seasons at Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, Mich., he played his senior season for head coach Chris Weinke at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. “It’s always tough to leave friends,” Osborn told the Detroit Free-Press. “It wasn’t an easy decision. My close friends at Lincoln were basketball players, even though I didn’t play. I wasn’t getting exposure, so it was hard to say no to IMG. I’m proud of the decision I made. I prayed on it. I’m a Michigan guy. I grew up in Michigan, but I don’t like the snow. I tried to stay in Florida after IMG, but I ended up at Buffalo.” At Miami, he worked on his master’s degree in criminal justice. “He liked adventures,’’ his dad told the Miami Herald. “When he was about 8 years old he would climb up on the roof, run down it to get momentum and jump down a 10-foot span into the pool — over and over.’’
Aaron Parker, Rhode Island (6-3, 208): Parker had a phenomenal four seasons with 216 receptions for 3,460 yards and 30 touchdowns. After scoring a career-high 10 touchdowns as a junior, he posted career highs 81 receptions for 1,224 yards (with nine scores) during an All-American senior season.
Parker has a curious path to the draft. He played quarterback and outside linebacker at Gwynn Park High School, located just outside Washington, D.C. He arrived at Rhode Island as a linebacker but his ball skills quickly meant a move to offense. “He’s got a work ethic that’s second to none,” coach Jim Fleming told the Providence Journal. “He’s had great success but he always takes coaching and works on the subtle things. All the best players have talent but the very best have that work ethic and love football.” His cousin, Isaiah Coulter, played receiver at Rhode Island and are at the Combine. An uncle, Walter Easley, played in the NFL. The cousins would spend the summer at his West Virginia home.
Dezmon Patmon, Washington State (6-4, 228): Patmon caught 156 passes for 1,976 yards (12.7 average) and 13 touchdowns in four seasons, highlighted by 61 catches for 816 yards and five touchdowns as a junior and 58 catches for 762 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior.
His size is an obvious asset, something he was reminded of frequently coach Mike Leach and outside-receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. “Football is a game of strength,” Patmon told the Lewiston Tribune. “When I’m 6-4, 225, and all the corners are 5-11 and 180, obviously being stronger and faster than them is an advantage.” With 13 added pounds came increased production. “Truthfully, I think he’s always enjoyed football and wanted to be good at it,” Leach told Herald.net. “Sometimes it’s hard, but the difficulty of it is part of the reward, and I think as he realizes that he’s gotten better and better. I think now he enjoys being a pretty physical guy.” An uncle, DeWayne Patmon, played linebacker at Michigan and in 22 games for the New York Giants in 2001 and 2002.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan* (6-2, 208): In three seasons, Peoples-Jones caught 103 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he set career highs with 47 receptions, 612 yards, 13.0 yards per catch and eight touchdowns. Peoples-Jones was the full-time punt returner all three seasons with an 8.3-yard average and two touchdowns. “As a punt returner, you’ve got to kind of be relentless and fearless back there,” Peoples-Jones said.
He was all-Big Ten on the field and in the classroom as he juggled his NFL dreams with a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and be an orthopedic surgeon. "(Academics) has always meant a lot to me, just from what my parents have driven in me," Peoples-Jones told MLive.com. "Ever since I was younger, I've wanted to be what (my father) was, which was an orthopedic surgeon. I've always looked up to him and wanted to be like that." When he was 9, he studied an anatomy book and watched his dad perform ankle surgery. “He always knew what he wanted,” his mom told the Free Press. “As a little boy, when he was 9 or 10, when he would get his allowance, he would buy those little orange cones. He was creating routes and running routes through them. I just saw him running in circles. I didn’t understand what he was doing. But he always had vision. He was always very focused and very strategic. He would always play by himself. He was a loner. I’d see him zigzag, running routes.” At Cass Tech in Detroit, he was MVP of the state championship game in football, a high school All-American, the city champion in the 100 meters and carried a 3.9 GPA.
Malcolm Perry, Navy (5-9, 190): Perry operated Navy’s triple-option offense as a quarterback as a senior. He had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, including 2,017 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior. For his career, he rushed for 4,359 yards (7.1 average) and 40 touchdowns, caught 22 passes for 470 yards (21.4 average) and three touchdowns and completed 51.3 percent of his passes for 1,311 yards and 10 more scores. Almost all of that came over his final three seasons. The 4,359 rushing yards rank second in program history. In this year’s showdown, he rushed for an Army-Navy Game record 304 yards and two touchdowns in Navy's 31-7 rout of Army, and he tacked on 213 yards in a bowl victory over Kansas State.
Perhaps the best athlete in program history, it took a while for the coaches to figure out his position. Finally, they settled on quarterback. "I had to increase my knowledge of the offense. I had to get better at throwing the ball. I had to be a better leader," he told NavySports.com. "I had to become more than a guy running all over the place, especially against good defenses stacking the box [and daring Navy to pass]. You can't rely too much on using your athletic ability as a 'save me' card. That is not good for an offense." His parents served in the Army – yes, the Army – for a combined 40 years. "Up until my senior year, I didn't know I would be playing college sports," he told CBS Sports. "That threw a wrinkle in things when I realized I could play college football. My high school coach said Navy and Air Force called and wanted to talk to me about playing. I was extremely interested." Amazingly, as a freshman at Navy, he started one game in the stands wearing his dress whites and ended the game as the quarterback. "I saw somebody running up the stairs really fast. I was looking at him because it was kind odd, and he was like 'Where's Malcolm, where's Malcolm?' I was like 'right here.' Then I went down to the field and got dressed," Perry told the Capital Gazette. Up next will be a stint in the Marines. He let his parents know while doing a four-week training session over the summer. “He was in this swampy-looking pond – and all you could see was his head, his arms and his weapon,” his mom said. “I’m like ewww. I’ve always heard Marines are crazy.”
Michael Pittman, USC (6-4, 220): Pittman caught 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior to earn second-team All-American and be a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. He topped 100 yards in four of his last five regular-season games with six touchdowns. That gave him a four-year total of 171 catches for 2,519 yards and 19 scores.
Pittman’s father, Michael Sr., was an NFL running back who was part of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl XXXVII champions. When his father’s career was over, he picked up the role of coach and mentor. "One time, I think I just asked him if he could move out here," Pittman Jr. told Hero Sports. "He was like, 'sure,' and two or three months later he drove across the country and got an apartment next to my high school. I always had my stepfather around, but having my blood dad come out was really big for me. He knew a ton about the game and a lot about football. He coached me through his experiences and I think it's propelled me to a better position.” Because of his longtime girlfriend, Pittman rides horses in his spare time and wants to get into roping when his career is over. “They put me on a smaller horse. It was kind of funny because I was so tall,” Pittman told the Orange County Register. “From there, I just kept getting better and better. And I started doing barrel racing tracks and then I got a lasso. I’d start practicing my roping. From there it just kept getting deeper and deeper.” Younger brother Mycah Pittman was a freshman receiver at Oregon this year. The team captain made a difference off the field, too. He overcame stuttering by reading aloud, a message he’s passed onto kids. “I read because it helps me talk and be able to spread what I’m thinking,” he said. “When you read more, you know more and are more likely to share that with others. Knowledge is power!”
James Proche, SMU (6-0, 193): Proche led the nation with 111 receptions as a senior. He turned those into 1,225 yards (11.0 average) and 15 touchdowns. Including 93 receptions and 12 touchdowns as a junior, his four-year haul was 301 receptions for 3,949 yards (13.1 average) and 39 touchdowns. With 50 rushing yards, he finished with 3,999 scrimmage yards. Plus, he added 7.6 yards per punt return and 19.8 yards per kickoff return to run his all-purpose count to 4,996 yards. Proche finished his career as SMU’s all-time leader for receiving touchdowns, receiving yards, receptions and all-purpose yards.
“I want to be remembered as a winner," Proche told the Dallas News late in a season of production and mentorship. "Not a big-catch guy, statistics guy, highlight guy. I want to be a winner here. However I can finish doing that, doing my job, that’s what I’m focused on.” He was the star of his hometown school. “It’s amazing, man. Just being from this city and being able to represent my city,” Proche told the Dallas News. “I’m a Dallas kid, through and through. Born and raised in Desoto, played little league here. And to be able to … represent this city, man, and bring SMU back to prominence … it’s just surreal.” During training camp while in high school, he suffered acute kidney failure. He spent a week in a hospital and was sidelined for two months. "One of my Achilles' heels is I think I'm Superman. I don't like to show weakness," Proche told Rivals. "But I felt vulnerable at that point. It was scary, very scary. I remember one night, I cried. You can only hold your emotions for so long. When your cape comes off, that's when reality hits.”
Jalen Reagor, TCU* (5-11, 195): Reagor did everything during an All-American junior season. He caught 43 passes for 611 yards and five touchdowns, rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns, and averaged 20.8 yards per punt return with two touchdowns. He was one of two players in the FBS with two punt returns for touchdowns, both of which went 70-plus yards. As a sophomore, he caught 72 passes for 1,061 yards.
His father, Montae Reagor, played nine seasons in the NFL and was a defensive lineman for the 2006 Indianapolis Colts team that won Super Bowl XLI. “I was just trying to lead the way,” Montae said. “I wanted to show (Jalen) as a young man how to get things done, how to always work, how to do less complaining.” Said Jalen: “I was brought up not to make excuses. You have to do something with what you have.” Having a dad who played in the NFL meant a high bar. His mom knew that Jalen would surpass those expectations. “When he was a little boy, I knew he was going to be better than his dad. When he starting running, I asked myself why he didn’t walk first. He just ran — everywhere,” said Jalen’s mother, Ishia Johnson. “When we tried to get him to say his first word, it was ball. Not mama or daddy. Ball. All I could think is, ‘This kid is too much.’ I knew he was going to be good. He has always had an edge to him.” At Waxahachie (Texas) High School, he was a state champion in the long jump and had the nation’s best jump by a foot. During his final two seasons of high school, former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna was the head coach.