As two of the most electrifying athletes on the football team say goodbye to their illustrious careers at East Carolina, another journey awaits them. Isaiah “Zay” Jones and James Summers have been chosen by two great NFL organizations to extend their careers.
The Buffalo Bills made the decision on day two of the 2017 NFL Draft to go with the career collegiate receptions leader, Zay Jones. The Arizona Cardinals signed a deal with James Summers on April 29, making him the second offensive player from the 2016 ECU football team to make it to the NFL.
The big question is, what will these players offer their respective teams that have chosen to give them a spot on the roster?
Zay Jones is a 6-foot-2-inch 200-pound receiver from Austin, Texas. During his career at ECU, he started all four years for the team, playing with some great athletes. Jones posted 1,434 yards with 143 receptions his freshman and sophomore season combined, before having two great seasons to end his collegiate career.
Jones was a second-team All-American Athletic Conference pick in 2015 with 98 catches for 1,099 yards and five scores. Jones followed that by being selected to the first-team All-AAC team in 2016, after he hauled in 158 receptions for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns. His tremendous season led to him setting the record for most receptions in a season and most receptions in a career (399). He was also recognized as a finalist for the Biletnikoff award for best receiver, but fell short to Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook.
Now joining the Bills, Jones will be on a team that consists of matured NFL receivers and a few stars. Buffalo already has a primetime receiver in former Clemson Tiger Sammy Watkins, as well as veteran Brandon Tate, two experienced players Jones will have the chance to learn from.
Jones is no stranger to working with great receivers, like Justin Hardy, who previously held the career receptions record and now plays for the Atlanta Falcons. Zay has also had his fair share of quarterbacks. The Bills haven’t had the most stability at the quarterback position over the years, but with Tyrod Taylor returning for a third year as starter, there should be more cohesion between the receivers and their quarterback.
But even if there is change at the quarterback position, it won’t be something Jones hasn’t handled before. He dealt with multiple quarterbacks at ECU, catching passes from Shane Carden, Blake Kemp, James Summers, Philip Nelson, Gardner Minshew and Reid Herring over four seasons. Isaiah Jones may be a perfect fit for the Buffalo Bills organization, and has the capability to produce quality stats within the wide receiver corps in New York.
One of the quarterbacks that threw the ball to Jones will also get a chance to make an NFL team. James Summers, the junior college transfer from Greensboro, North Carolina, will be joining the Arizona Cardinals practice squad this summer. Summers was noticed not just for his passing ability but also for his versatility as a running back.
Summers operated as the backup quarterback during ECU’s 2016 campaign and eventually transitioned to running back. He rushed for 869 yards, leading the team, and scored seven times. In 2015, when he played mostly quarterback, he was the spark plug for the team. His versatility, rushing for 446 yards and eight touchdowns while passing for 863 yards and five touchdowns, made him a dual threat.
Summers’ big frame, standing at 6 foot 3 inches and weighing in at 210 pounds, makes him a powerful back with unexpected speed. He will be competing with David Johnson, Andre Ellington, Elijhaa Penny, Kerwynn Williams, and another North Carolina standout, T.J. Logan.
Jones will have the best chances to make an impact on the Buffalo Bills in his rookie season. As for Summers, he will battle with some great players to potentially get quality reps with the first or second teams. Both of these organizations took chances on these great athletes from ECU, and they will fight to the end in true Pirate fashion.