Allen Park — Early last season, on his way to racking up 16.5 sacks for Jackson State, edge rusher James Houston got a handy nickname. It’s one the Detroit Lions wouldn’t mind staying on after selecting Houston as the #217 pick of the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
“My nickname is ‘Da Problem,'” Houston said. “Back in Jackson State, some of the announcers just came out on top. I was sort of wreaking havoc on my fourth game… and they came up with ‘Da Problem.’ You know, ‘Houston, we’ve got a problem.’ “
Houston is too small for the rim, at 6 feet, 244 pounds, but compensates with 34 1/4-inch arms, an explosive first step and violent hands. In addition to the big sack total as a senior, he had a knack for knocking the ball loose from ball carriers, forcing seven fumbles in 2021.
“Revenue, pockets, just game-changing play, that’s my whole game,” Houston said. “Of course I focus a lot on making turnover (and) hitting the ball.”
It also offers some intriguing versatility. Prior to transferring to Jackson State, Houston spent four years in Florida as an off-ball linebacker and special teams.
“I didn’t know much about James as we went through the fall process,” said Lions general manager Brad Holmes. “Once he got to the all-star track and made some noise there, and we went on and on and on and on through the whole process, his name kept coming back. The scouts had a lot of buy-in with this player. Dave Sears, our university principal, had a lot of passion for his evaluation and what he thought his potential could be.”
The opportunity to add Houston is also of interest to Holmes, who played collegiately for another HBCU school, North Carolina A&T. The Lions GM has worked locally to promote the importance and value of those institutions.
Houston is also excited to represent the school, saying the opportunity to play for an HBCU, as well as coach Deion Sanders, played a major role in his decision to go there after graduating in Florida.
“Obviously it was an HBCU, which drew me there as well,” Houston said. “My whole family, we come from HBCUs. Everyone from my immediate family to my extended family really goes to HBCUs. So it was something I wanted to experience and it just felt like the right time. I know me and Coach Prime, We all had the same ambitions and motivation to get this thing going, and I couldn’t be more excited to be its first prospect in the NFL and the first prospect in SWAC.”
Meet James Houston
High school: Jackson State
Length weight: 6 feet-1/241 pounds
notable statistics: After spending his first four years in Florida, Houston filled the stats in his only season with the Tigers: 70 tackles, 24 tackles for losses, 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 13 games.
Analysis: Houston piled production into the SWAC at an impressive pace. He is instinctive and tough, and has potential as an aggressive, downhill linebacker who has a quick first step. Although not an ideal size, he has an edge as a rusher and can be an asset in special teams.