Ogle coaches running backs. Although this wasn’t a bad-news meeting at all, Ogle was curious what his player’s reaction might be.
As junior DaMarcus James made his way in, Ogle brought up something on his computer screen – the all-Ohio Valley Conference preseason team. Ogle pointed to James’ name listed among the first-team running backs and asked him, “What’s this mean?”
James, who has a reputation of not talking a whole lot, got to the point with his answer: “It means they all know who I am.”
After rushing for a team-high 867 yards a year ago, James has gained some attention, and he apparently knows it. But Ogle stressed that James didn’t take this news as a reason to take it easy as Jacksonville State goes through preseason practice in the August heat.
“One thing we say around here is, ‘Working to be great,’” Ogle said after practice Friday night. “I’ve seen DaMarcus do that every day.”
James is familiar with the spotlight. He was a Class 5A first-team all-state running back at Demopolis High. He helped his team to a state championship his junior year, rushing for a state final record of 293 yards.
Last season, he was slated to be the backup to former all-conference running back Washaun Ealey, but James took advantage of what opportunities he got. He wound up winning OVC player of the week honors when he rushed for 120 yards and scored twice in a win over Chattanooga. It was one of five games in which he rushed for more than 100 yards.
James said he made an effort to work hard every day beginning with his sophomore year at Dempolis. That’s when he was set to be the varsity’s new featured running back. He hasn’t stopped since.
“I knew I had to step up. I did what I had to do,” said James, who is described by people around the JSU program as somebody who doesn’t talk a lot about his accomplishments.
“Football is football, and that’s how you do it.”
Ogle said he figured out James’ work ethic before he even set foot on campus.
“He was this way at Dempolis,” Ogle said. “One thing I’ve never had a problem with is getting DaMarcus James to work hard.”
James stands 5-foot-10 with 220 pounds on his frame, and he uses that weight to be a power runner. When asked about James, teammate Troymaine Pope, his backup, smiled and said he is physical.
“He’s a big boy,” he said.
But Pope said he has learned from watching how James knows when to use his power and when to try something different.
“He can bust through the hole and run over people,” Pope said, “but he also can hit a juke move. He taught me when to run over someone and when it’s best to put a move on them.”
For James, the guy who doesn’t say a whole lot, it’s just part of learning and working to get better. He doesn’t stop for anything.
Well, actually, he stopped for a moment when Ogle showed him that computer screen. After all, preseason all-conference isn’t something he was thinking about.
“It wasn’t too much of a surprise,” he said, before adding, “but I was kind of shocked.”