On one side of the BCS National title game, it’s all about Auburn QB Cam Newton. One the other side, all the talk surrounds Oregon RB LaMichael James. The stud running back has already made his decision to return for his senior year, so he will no doubt be a first round pick in the 2012 (instead of 2011) NFL Draft.
Provided he maintains his health and productivity of course. But James has had his legal issues and been flagged by some NFL scouts for his character. It probably doesn’t help James that he goes to the same school, and also has a “unique” first name like Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie rusher LeGarrette Blount; who went undrafted in 2010 due to character flags.
With Roger Goodell’s Draconian attempt to legislate morality, NFL team’s will stress the virtues (or lack thereof) in potential draft picks now more than ever.
By Paul M. Banks
Of course, Blount rushed for a 1,000 yards this year as a rookie, and helped the Bucs have a surprisingly good season, so maybe the association to Blount is good for James?
With a college football national championship comes a lot of media days, and here’s an interesting back-and-forth between a reporter and Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly on the topic.
Q: LaMichael James. He had some rough patches. He had the arrest, the NCAA accusations. I don’t know his character. If you had to describe to me his character, how would you describe it?
A: The best character you can have. Above reproach. He is in a situation where people are going to accuse him of things because of who he is. I have all the confidence in the world he is a great young man.
Oregon has a strict curfew this week, so there won’t be much chance for any of the Oregon football team to really get into trouble heading into the title game. James talked about not being allowed to have fun, and how the work itself is fun. (I can relate to that, my work is much more fun to me than my actual “fun time”)
“This is a once in a lifetime chance. You are probably never going to get another chance at this. Who cares about going out until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. This is a business trip for us. We don’t want to go out and have fun. It is kind of fun to be hanging out at the hotel with your teammates. It is fun coming in here and talking to the media, of course, and practicing with your teammates and doing different things with your team.It is really a fun deal for us,” James said.
One guy who’s been portrayed as having impeccable character is Stanford QB Andrew Luck. Last week Luck made the seemingly inexplicable decision to turn down the money of being the #1 overall NFL Draft pick and come back to school. Very few people can understand why. James knows Luck and had a lot to say about what went down.
“I talk to Andrew a lot. Most people try to make it about money. But nobody really understands the importance. A degree can take you a long way. You can’t play football forever. I really respect his decision to stay in school,” James said.
“It is a good decision. Most people don’t even understand the importance of a degree. That’s something you can’t take away from anybody. The world today, everybody thinks about money. It is all about money and politics and all that other stuff. I think it is his decision. It is not about money. I think that’s the biggest confusion, it is all about money.”
James will have his shot at the NFL, but for now he’s got a big college game to play. And he talked about what led him to Eugene, Oregon.
“The stability of the coaching staff. That’s the big key for me. The offense is really fun. I always wanted to play fast. I was intrigued by all the uniforms…The throwback ones are my favorite. I play for Oregon. Oregon is a Nike school, so I’ll probably get Nike forever,” James said.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com
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