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USF’s KJ Sails will continue his Tampa impact in the NFL

“I’m more than a football player,” the former honorary mayor says after USF’s pro day.
USF defensive back KJ Sails went through pro day workouts during a rainy Thursday in Tampa.
USF defensive back KJ Sails went through pro day workouts during a rainy Thursday in Tampa. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Apr. 1
Updated Apr. 1

TAMPA — As defensive back KJ Sails went through the most important workout of his life Thursday during USF’s pro day, an NFL scout stopped him with an odd-sounding request.

He wanted to find out more about the governor.

“It was kind of funny,” Sails said. “I didn’t really think that they did their research about that type of stuff on me.”

Sails, of course, is not the governor. The East Bay High alumnus merely spent a day as Tampa’s honorary mayor in February.

But as pro teams continue their research about the NFL hopeful ahead of this month’s draft, they’ll discover an impressive player who will make an impact far beyond any locker room.

USF's KJ Sails spoke to reporters after his pro day Thursday.
USF's KJ Sails spoke to reporters after his pro day Thursday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Sails’ onfield influence was strong enough during his two seasons at USF. After arriving as a transfer from North Carolina in 2019, he started 20 games for the Bulls and was one of their bright spots during a rough stretch. He earned second-team all-conference honors as a junior and would have participated in an all-star showcase or two this offseason, had they not been cancelled because of the pandemic.

His impression on the community was equally notable. Amid the nationwide unrest after George Floyd’s death over the summer, Sails organized a unity walk from downtown Tampa to Central Park Village. Mayor Jane Castor became his mentor and awarded him the key to the city.

Related: ‘This is the generation to make change,’ says USF Bulls cornerback KJ Sails

“I’m thankful to impact my community, because this community means a lot to me,” Sails said. “I grew up here. I was born and raised here. A lot of my family’s from here. It’s a blessing.”

KJ Sails led a unity walk in Tampa during the period of nationwide unrest over the summer.
KJ Sails led a unity walk in Tampa during the period of nationwide unrest over the summer. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]

As much as Sails loves his hometown, Thursday was about trying to earn the opportunity to move away from it. He went through typical combine drills and positional workouts in front of pro scouts (including at least two representatives from the Bucs). His results weren’t immediately available, but he only dropped one pass during defensive back drills and didn’t seem bothered by a knee injury that ended his USF career a game early.

The event was also an opportunity for teams to get to know Sails as a person to gauge whether he’s worth a late-round pick or signing as an undrafted free agent. Whenever and wherever Sails goes, his activism and outreach will continue.

Related: Five takeaways from USF’s spring football game

“I’m more than a football player,” Sails said. “I’m going to impact the community wherever I’m at, wherever I end up, while I’m still being an impact here in Tampa.”

Noah Johnson’s dual role

Noah Johnson has been a college quarterback but spent time as a receiver, too, during USF's pro day.
Noah Johnson has been a college quarterback but spent time as a receiver, too, during USF's pro day. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Noah Johnson used his pro day to show that he can do more than toss passes. He can catch them, too.

The Armwood High alumnus split time as a quarterback and receiver Thursday, throwing passes for one rep then splitting out wide to run a route and catch the ball a moment later.

“That’s what I’ve trained for,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to show the scouts that I’m in shape, that I’m versatile. I put in the work, and hopefully I get a chance and get a shot.”

Johnson was the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s offensive player of the year as a quarterback at Alcorn State in 2018. In six games (one start) last year at USF, he threw for three touchdowns and an interception and rushed for 106 yards and three scores.

Related: Florida’s early 2021 college football viewing guide

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