When a football player like Daniel James says he loves to read books about sports, a certain image takes shape. The idea of the McKinley High lineman reading “The Blind Side” or “Friday Night Lights” seems logical.
That’s the exact moment when James makes it obvious he’s not your stereotypical lineman.
“I don’t have many hobbies, but I do like to read,” James said. “Mostly it’s sports books, like one I read about how to prevent injuries.”
In an era when most defensive lineman idolize guys like the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt or the New Orleans Saints’ Cameron Jordan, James’ role model is a Louisiana native, well known sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
“I’ve wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon since I was in elementary school,” James said. “I read a book by Dr. James Andrews. I like what he does to help people. I’d like to be him one day.”
For now, James is content to be a senior who already has football scholarship offers from every Ivy League school.
“You know, it started all of a sudden,” McKinley football coach Robert Signater said of James’ recruitment. “We sent out video on Daniel to different schools, and he got his first offer from Brown in April. From there it just took off.”
The 6-foot-2, 275-pound James said he completed the Ivy League cycle by garnering an offer from Columbia on Tuesday. He also has picked up offers from Southern and McNeese.
James is one of two McKinley lineman making recruiting news. Offensive lineman Keeyon Smart committed to Tulane during the spring.
Signater points to James’ physical power as a strength. MHS defensive coordinator Ryan Cook a different perspective.
“Daniel does come off the ball with a lot of power, and his speed and size have improved,” Cook said. “But if I had to point to one thing that separates him from a lot of people, I’d have to say it’s his work ethic. He’s done a (180) since his freshman year. He’s always running or lifting weights. That work has paid off.”
After playing at 5-11, 220 pounds as a freshman, James knew needed to get bigger and stronger. So he read books and found websites and other sources that explained how to gain weight and strength in a healthy way. He’s gained between 15 and 20 each offseason since.
James, who carries a 4.0 grade point average and has a 29 score on the ACT, also took a workmanlike approach to getting recruited. After the McKinley coaches sent out videos to colleges, including the Ivy League schools, James sent them emails. He also attended five recruiting combines/showcases during the spring.
Heading off to an East Coast school sounds like a bit of stretch for a Louisiana guy. James would be following in the footsteps of ex-McKinley star Garrick Mayweather, a starting offensive lineman for Fordham.
Just don’t ask James to pick a favorite among the school recruiting him. He’s focused on helping the Panthers improve on last season’s 3-8 record. Plans for five recruiting visits can wait.
“We had a great spring,” James said. “This team is really unified. In the past I don’t think you could say everybody had the same goals, but we do. I want to see where this year takes us.”
Recruiters, no doubt feel the same way about James.
Follow Robin Fambrough on twitter @FambroughAdv and on the blog BR Preps http://blogs.theadvocate.com/batonrougepreps/