If and when Tarell Basham’s professional football career takes off, the Roanoke Valley might want to claim him.
Basham, a star player from down the road at Franklin County High School, doesn’t lack for Roanoke connections.
For one thing, he was born in the Star City.
“I lived here for a while, probably till I was about 10,” Basham said Friday as he welcomed youngsters to his skills camp at William Fleming High School.
“I played rec football over here at Wilmont [Park]. This is where my family is. This is where my roots are. This is my neighborhood. My entire family is here. My mom stays right here. My grandma is right over the hill.”
Basham, who turned 25 in March, is preparing for his third NFL season.
After being selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, he played in 15 games as a rookie with Indianapolis. He appeared in one game in 2018 for the Colts before being waived.
The Jets picked him up in early October 2018, and he eventually played in 10 games for them.
An avid pass rusher who was the MAC defensive player of the year as a senior at Ohio University, Basham also started once for New York.
“It was a blessing to be picked up by another squad and be given another opportunity,” he said. “I had some decent plays when I was able to get out there. As a team, we struggled.”
Todd Bowles was fired as Jets head coach after a 4-12 season and replaced by Adam Gase, who hired interim Cleveland Browns coach Gregg Williams as his defensive coordinator.
“You can tell [Williams] knows what he’s doing and what kind of defense he wants to build,” Basham said.
There’s no secret to increased playing time for Basham.
“Just need to make more plays, get more sacks and play whatever role that’s out there to be played,” said Basham, who set a school record at Ohio with 29 ½ career sacks.
After he was named Timesland Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Franklin County in 2012, Basham prepped at Hargrave Military Academy for a year before signing with Ohio.
“It was tough, but it definitely built a whole lot of character — punctuality and things I needed to do to get where I am today,” Basham said of his time at Hargrave.
Basham, 25, was joined in Roanoke on Friday by his agent, Aaron Henderson, who was working on a masters degree at Ohio when he became aware of Basham.
Henderson said he ran into coach Williams at the NFL Combine and sensed that the Jets will be counting on Basham.
Teams begin reporting for preseason camp next week.
“What he told me was that he loved [Basham] and to have him ready because they’re going to run him this year,” Henderson said. “I think they’ll be rushing the passer a lot more this year and that will give [Basham] more opportunities to do what he was doing best in college.”
“If anything, [getting waived] was a wakeup call to the realities of how the NFL works. Those things happen but he was blessed to be put in a great situation in New York, a place where he’ll have a chance.”
Basham flashed a wide grin as he started greeting the youngsters who arrived at Fleming for the skills camp.
He wanted to share a message that he has harbored throughout his career:
“You don’t need to be the best ever, or the best to ever do something,” he said. “Just to be your best is good enough. That’s what got me to where I am today.”