Article - James has a healthy outlook

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  1. k19

    k19 Active Member

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    Posted on Tue, Apr. 19, 2005

    James has a healthy outlook

    Wisconsin standout insists injuries behind him


    The Kansas City Star

    Perhaps no player was poked and prodded more at the NFL Scouting Combine than Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James.

    Doctors, trainers, scouts and coaches examined James' hip, which was injured so severely in 2003, he missed his entire junior season. They checked out James' ankle, which he sprained in the seventh game last year, sidelined him for one game and slowed him down for two more.

    They even inspected a shoulder, just in case they might find something.

    “That was from two years ago,” James said. “They kind of backtrack …The first thing when you get in there, and they're looking down your sheet, and they see that hip injury, it's a pretty big issue.”

    Once James, a 6-foot-4 1/8 , 266-pounder, convinced teams his injuries are a thing of the past, he vaulted up the draft boards and could be the first defensive lineman selected in Saturday's NFL draft.

    Despite missing some time because of the high ankle sprain, James tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks with 8.0 and was selected Big Ten Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the of the Year.

    “If he was not the most dominant player in the country, he was one of them,” said Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez. “All you had to do was turn on the film, and you'd see one guy who was at a different speed than everybody else on the field.

    “Ras was not on the radar screen when the season started. No one knew Erasmus James. He wasn't on any preseason All-American teams.”

    James, in fact, was known more as a basketball player in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and didn't play any high school football until the football coach at McArthur High School convinced him to go out for the team as a senior.

    “I looked like a defensive end,” James said, “so he brought me out there, put me down in that stance, and ever since it's been working for me.”

    James' one season of high school football was enough to draw interest from nearby Miami, Florida State and North Carolina State, but he made the unlikely decision to leave sunny Florida for snowy Wisconsin.

    “It was the farthest away,” James explained, “but they'd just come off back-to-back Rose Bowls, the defensive linemen were leaving, and it was a great academic school as well.”

    After sitting out his freshman year in 2000 because he was a partial qualifier, James became a starter in 2002 and was on the threshold of making the early Outland and Nagurski award lists in 2003 when pain began shooting through his hip during pre-season camp.

    “It was very frightening because they said it would be about three games,” James said. “Three games came, and it just kept getting worse. Doctors in Wisconsin didn't know anything about it, they just kept comparing it to Bo Jackson, and how his career was ended. … when you put faith in doctors, and the doctors don't know what's going on. You're definitely worried.

    “They sent me to a doctor with the New York Giants, and I went out and he said I didn't need surgery, just rehab.”

    James returned for his senior season last year and dominated the competition until spraining the ankle when he was chop-blocked against Purdue. He helped the Badgers jump out to a 9-0 start, but Wisconsin, like James, limped to the finish, losing its last three games, including the Outback Bowl.

    James elected to rest his ankle and sat out the Senior Bowl, so most of the questions teams have for him are not about his playing ability but his durability.

    “The ankle's good,” James said. “I've had a good amount of time off. The hip has passed with flying colors.

    “I think I've proven myself on the field this past year. But they still want to look at the hip and look at all these different issues.”

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