Height: 6-3 Weight: 240 Age: 31
Born: 9/22/1984 Fort Worth , TX
Selected By: Houston Texans
Pick (Overall): 16 (152)
Casey is a truly remarkable athlete and person, having overcome several obstacles in his personal life and athletic career to emerge as one of the finest prospects in the 2009 NFL Draft. His focus, determination and success on the field have created a story that a Hollywood producer would love to turn into a movie.
Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, tragedy struck the Casey family when James was a sophomore at Azle High School. A fire caused by an electrical heater malfunction in the trailer his family lived in, taking the life of his mother, Susan. "It was a real rough moment in my life, Casey recalled. "I think she'd be very proud of how I've handled myself and where I'm at right now." Where that is might be a first-day call from an NFL team in late April.
The family tragedy forced the young Casey to grow up in a hurry. "It was a big turning point in my life," he said. "It made me be very driven, very motivated with a very, very good work ethic. I realized my mom would have wanted me to pick myself up and to succeed."
Casey was a standout in football and baseball at Azle High, where he earned All- District honors as a quarterback during his junior campaign in 2001. He missed most of his senior football season with injury problems, leaving baseball as his only option for his immediate future.
Casey earned All-State and Academic All-State honors in baseball and was named District 6-4A Most Valuable Player as a senior. He threw a no-hitter in first varsity game and major league scouts flocked to see him perform. He was also a member of the National Honor Society at Azele High.
Casey excelled academically, and while he loved the game of football, he received more attention for his performance on the baseball diamond during his prep days. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago White Sox.
Baseball America rated him as possessing the best fastball in the Sox minor league organization. The right-handed pitcher spent three years in the White Sox farm system before he was released in 2006. He played for a few independent teams in Fort Worth and Laredo before deciding to retire from baseball.
That became another turning point for him. Casey enrolled at Rice University after one of his high school teammates, Dustin Hufsey, who was on the Rice team, forwarded his information on to the coaching staff. He was awarded a scholarship as a linebacker, but he eventually was shifted to defensive end.
In the 2007 Southern Mississippi game, he played seven different positions, catching two passes while scoring once on 12 carries for 38 yards. He also posted three tackles, assisted on a sack, made another stop behind the line of scrimmage and recovered a fumble.
The coaches decided his athleticism would be better served on the offensive side of the ball. He was named a Freshman All American as a tight end by the Football Writers Association, The Sporting News and Rivals.com. The consensus Conference USA All- Freshman pick would also perform as a flanker, inside slot receiver, linebacker, H-back and quarterback in addition to seeing some action as a punt returner that campaign.
All told, Casey started just four of the 12 2007 games he appeared in, but ranked second on the team with 46 receptions for 585 yards (12.7 avg) and four touchdowns. He scored five more times while gaining 144 yards on 45 carries (3.2 avg) and completed two of seven passes for 32 yards and an interception. He scored 54 points and totaled 711 all-purpose yards.
Casey followed with a banner 2008 campaign. Used mostly at the "Y" receiver position, he established school single-season records with 111 receptions for 1,329 yards (12.0 avg) and 12 touchdowns, earning All-American and All-Conference USA accolades. He became just the second player in school history to score more than 100 points (116) in a season, as he also had six touchdowns and 248 yards on 57 carries (4.4 avg), connected on two of five throws for 5 yards and a pair of scores and returned 14 punts for 112 yards (8.0 avg). His 1,682 all-purpose yards ranked seventh in the league and rank fifth in Rice annals.
After the season, Casey and his wife, Kylie, decided he should forgo his final two years of eligibility and he applied for the 2009 NFL Draft. In just two years at Rice, he received Academic All-American honors, compiling a 3.84-grade point average while holding a triple major in Economics, Managerial Studies and Sports Management.