WEST ALABAMA HEROES: James making most of chance at Jacksonville State
Fri. September 21, 2012 at 7:17 p.m. | By Barry Allen
DaMarcus James, who led Demopolis to the 2009 Class 5A championship, is thriving in his second year at Jacksonville State. He has 25 carries for 164 yards with two total touchdowns through two games. (Photo by Jacksonville State | Steve Latham)
JACKSONVILLE | DaMarcus James has seen his share of ups and downs over the course of the last two football seasons.
As a junior, he led the Demopolis Tigers to the 2009 Class 5A state football championship with a 27-14 win over the Russellville Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. James ran the ball 42 times for 293 yards and one touchdown was the state final's Most Valuable Player. His 13-yard run tied the game at 7 in the second quarter.
James then entered his senior season as one of the state's top running backs and even committed to play collegiately at Washington State. He was recruited there by former Alabama defensive tackle and Demopolis defensive coordinator Rudy Griffin. Griffin played at UA from 2003-05 and spent two years on the Demopolis staff, helping the Tigers to the 2009 state title.
Then his career took a downward turn.
Demopolis lost to Hueytown in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2010 as Jameis Winston led the Golden Gophers past the defending state champs. James also decommitted from Washington State, leaving his football career in limbo.
"I originally committed to Washington State," James said. "(Rudy Griffin) coached at my high school and went up there, and he told them about me. I checked them out, and when he it came time to make my decision, I committed. Then he decided to leave, so after he left I did not think it was the best thing for me, so I decommitted."
With no chance at another state championship and no real plans for college, James headed to the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile. James was the game's leading rusher with 39 yards as Alabama defeated Mississippi 24-17 in double-overtime.
It was there he got back on the recruiting radar.
"I had an up-and-down recruiting period," James recalled. "I heard from Jacksonville State after I played in the Mississippi-Alabama High School All-Star Game. They called me and I took a visit. I realized this was the place I wanted to be."
James played in eight games last season and had 13 rushing attempts for 59 yards. He has already surpassed that total this year with 25 rushing attempts for 164 yards and one touchdown in the first two games. He made his first collegiate start against Chattanooga on Sept. 9 and scored the first touchdown of his collegiate career.
"I thought I had a pretty good game against Chattanooga," James said. "Once I got into the flow of the game, things went really well and I had a pretty good game."
James had 16 rushing attempts for 120 yards and his first career touchdown — a 43-yard run in the second quarter that put the Gamecocks in front 17-0. He also caught his first career touchdown pass — a 30-yarder that gave the Gamecocks a 24-10 lead in the third quarter.
James said his ability to play both tailback and fullback has given him more playing time this season.
"I play some running back and some fullback," he said. "At fullback you really have to know who and how to block. If the defense changes, you really have to know what is going on. At running back, you get the ball most of the time, with some pass protection. I like having the football in my hands and making plays, but if I have to block then I have to block."
Now his career is on the upswing again, and James credits that to experience.
"I have had a year under my belt here and I have learned the system. Things are coming naturally to me now."
DaMarcus James File:
Jacksonville State University: James has played in 10 games in his two-year career with the Gamecocks ... He has 38 rushing attempts for 223 yards and one rushing touchdown with the Gamecocks ... In two games this season, James has 25 rushing attempts for 164 yards and one TD ... He also has a 30-yard TD reception ... Last year, he played in eight games and ran 13 times for 59 yards ... He made his collegiate debut against Tennessee-Martin on Sept. 1, 2011 ... James ran nine times for 48 yards against Austin Peay on Oct. 15, 2011.
Demopolis High School: Played for Tom Causey at Demopolis High School ... Was a four-year letterman ... A first-team All-State selection by the Alabama Sports Writers Association ... He rushed for 1,828 yards as a senior and had his best game of the year with 328 yards on 25 carries in 2010 ... He set a Class 5A state finals record with 293 yards rushing on 42 carries as a junior in a 27-14 win over Russellville ... He wrapped up his career with 6,956 rushing yards.