COVINGTON, Ga. — The NFL Draft didn’t carry the same brand of angst and trepidation for Toyous Avery as it perhaps did for others who came into last Thursday unsure of their fate over the next two days and seven rounds.
Avery, the former West Virginia Mountaineer safety and Newton star, had already cased out his draft day prospects, and went into the draft prepared to not hear his name called.
Sure enough, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound safety wasn’t selected during the seven-round draft, but by the time everything was said and done, Avery still got the end result he wanted when he signed a free agency deal with the Seattle Seahawks, ensuring he’d have every opportunity to make the Seahawks’ roster.
As far as Avery was concerned, that was more than good enough for him.
“I mean, I knew I had a slight opportunity to get drafted, but I wasn’t really focused on that,” Avery said Monday while paying a visit to his Newton High alma mater on the first day of the Rams’ spring practice.
“All I needed was an opportunity to show what I can do, so I got that and that’s all I need.”
Avery said he didn’t approach the draft, or even free agency, with a “pick me” approach toward any specific team. Instead, he was fully content to go with whatever franchise deemed him a valuable asset.
“I don’t ever think of a team I want to go too,” he said. “Whoever wants me, I want them. The first team that came, that’s what I want.”
Avery had an admirable three-year career at West Virginia, playing in 30 games and making 16 starts during that time. Last year, Avery recorded 44 total tackles with 28 solo stops and picked off two passes. An admitted perfectionist, Avery was slow to praise his senior year performance, but is grateful that he was able to do enough to propel him to the next level.
“Of course I feel like I could’ve ddid better, but I think I did pretty good,” he said. “I gave all I got, and somebody recognized it and liked it.”
Avery said his agent prepped him for the Seahawks to call him for his services. And from the very first moment the team’s representative got Avery on the phone, Avery said he liked what he heard.
“The first thing they said to me was, ‘It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,’” he said. “So right off the bat, I said, ‘I like that.’ Then they said they think very highly of me as a football player and that they can’t wait to see me get out there on the field and see what I can do.”
Avery was a three-star prospect coming out of Newton and was rated as the No. 12 safety nationally by 247sports.com at the time. He took the JUCO route initially, matriculating to Coffeyville (Kansas) Community college and redshirting in 2014 before emerging in 2015 with 69 total tackles, 39 solo stops, 5.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, five pass breakups and a team-high five interceptions.
Coming out of Coffeyville, he chose the Mountaineers over Missouri, Kansas, Colorado State and several other mid-major programs. And while he’s appreciative of the things he learned at both colleges, Avery keeps coming back to Newton’s practice field every chance he gets for a specific reason.
“I owe these coaches a lot, to be honest,” he said. “If it wasn’t for some of these people out here, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. And that’s for real.”
First-year Newton head coach Camiel Grant, Jr. is very familiar with Avery’s story and progress, as Grant has spent 10 years around the Rams program before being named head coach in December.
Grant said he’ll take any opportunity he gets to welcome guys like Avery back to the program to be an example to the current batch of Newton football players as to what they can become with the right work ethic and determination.
“That’s huge to have Toyous back with us, and it’s something we want to always make sure we do,” Grant said. “Whether guys like Toyous who’s going to the next level or a guy who graduates from here and becomes a manager at a local business, we want to make sure we’re including the guys who played here and set the foundation. It’s big for these guys to see them go on and be successful.”
Grant said the fact that players like Avery, current Georgia Bulldog wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman or graduating South Carolina defensive back Steven Montac make it a point to come back frequently speaks volumes for the impact the Rams football program has had on high-level players.
“Obviously when you get to play at the NFL level, that stands at the forefront, and for these guys to feel like this is a place that they want to come back to speaks more volumes than anything else,” Grant said. “For them to feel this is a place they want to come back to makes us feel like we’re doing something right here.”
As for Avery, his focus now shifts to doing all he can to make the Seahawks’ roster. That includes “film and more film, eating right and recovery” from the past season. Beyond that, he’s confident in his abilities to make a lasting impression on his potential new team.
“I feel like I’ve got everything else I need to make an impact,” Avery said. “Size, speed, strength. When people see me play, I want them to say about me that ‘He’s always around the ball.’ Beyond that, I’m just very excited to get started. I don’t even know how to explain it or express how I’m feeling. You’ll probably just see it on the field when I play.”