By Paul Augeri
Tyshaun James took the first step toward realizing his dream of playing in the NFL when he signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-3 wide receiver, who played at Middletown High and Central Connecticut State University, will report to the Falcons’ rookie minicamp in mid-May and will continue the process of trying to make the 53-man roster when training camp commences in late July.
James is the first Middletown public school product with a chance to make an NFL team since Al Marshall in 1983.
“We are so proud of him,” said former Middletown head coach Sal Morello. “Tyshaun was always a hard worker and loved the weight room. He was always good about his academics. He had a great foundation at home. A game that sticks out to me was when we went to Maloney. Both teams were 4-0 and he was unstoppable.”
At quarterback and running the option, James rushed for 196 yards and two TDs that night and threw for 112 yards and two scores. “I could tell there that he was special,” Morello said.
James, who graduated in December with degrees in economics and management, owns Central Connecticut’s record for receiving touchdowns and was a two-time First Team All-Northeast Conference selection.
“This is a great day for Tyshaun, his family and also for our program,” Blue Devils coach Ryan McCarthy said in a statement released by the school. “Tyshaun has worked hard for this day and is dedicated to improving his craft. He has made the most of his talent and with his work ethic we look forward to following his career. For our program it shows everyone that if you have the dedication to the game, people will take notice and doors will open for you to continue your career.”
In an interview with WFSB Channel 3, James said he had several suitors but felt most comfortable with the Falcons, who were in touch throughout the pre-draft process. James turned heads with his performance at the NFL scouting combine, where he ran a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash.
“Honestly, they’ve been persistent since the beginning and that was one of the reasons” he chose to sign there. He also said Atlanta’s roster presents “a unique receiver situation” and pointed to 10th-year veteran Cordarrelle Patterson as a player he admires for his ability and longevity.
“I’d like to play a long time in the NFL,” he said.
James joins former teammate Jake Dolegala as the second Central player to sign with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent in the last four years. Dolegala signed with the Cincinnati Bengals after the 2019 draft and is currently playing in the Canadian Football League.
James, who had 18 touchdown receptions in his CCSU career, earned Division I All-New England honors after a senior season in 2021 in which he had 45 catches for 674 yards and five touchdowns.