LaMichael James, #23
Height: 5 ft 8 in
Weight: 195 lbs
Age: 23 years old
Hometown: New Boston, Texas
When LaMichael James stepped on the field this past Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, he completed a journey that few people facing the same obstacles he faced would have endured. His childhood was as unique as they come, and although it was very difficult and challenging, it has essentially shaped him into the person he has become both on and off the field. Even after escaping his childhood, a domestic issue injury during his college days threatened to derail James, whose road to San Francisco was just as tough off the field as on it. In his first NFL game, he rushed for 30 yards on eight carries and added a 15-yard reception. He didn’t drop any jaws after his performance, but it’s clear that he is able to contribute to the 49ers’ long term goals and will be around for the foreseeable future.
James’ story started with tragedy, and he had to fight to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. His father was killed before he was born and his mother was never a stable figure in his life. Without any parents, he was forced into the loving arms of his grandmother, who took on the task of raising him. LaMichael must have thought the world was against him after his grandmother passed away from cervical cancer while James was still a junior in high school, leaving him all alone to take on the world. Who knows how he did it, but James channeled whatever he was feeling and became a monster on the football field. More impressively, he kept focused on school and not only graduated, but caught the eye of Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks, who became James’ new family in 2009.
To say that James burst onto the scene as a freshmen would be an understatement. He was named the Pac-10 Offensive Freshmen of the Year, and with his unheard-of 6.9 per rush average, it was a no-brainier for him to be named the starter for the next season. He continued his torrid pace as a sophomore, but had to sit out the season opener due to a domestic incident with his girlfriend. Despite missing one game, he led the country in yards and touchdowns, and became a Heisman Finalist. A freak arm injury towards the end of the 2011 season kept him off the field and caused some doubters to voice concern that he would never be the same after such a horrific injury. There is no surprise that James proved these naysayers wrong by returning to the team later that season and leading the team to wins in both the Pac-10 Championship as well as Rose Bowl before declaring himself eligible for the draft.
More to Come From James
Until last week, James was delegated to the sideline, which would usually not sit well with someone accustomed to his success, but he is not your typical football player. He realizes that he is living his dream, and his time arrived last week. By showing glimpses of the player who can provide the team with the change of pace they need from the player alongside Frank Gore in the backfield, James will get more chances to touch the ball as the team determines how best to get him on the field, all while proving wrong those who said that he was not sturdy enough to play on Sundays.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.