Perseverance Pays Off For Robert James

Ever since safety Robert James failed to academically qualify for the 2002 season, his life has become intertwined with another then academic casualty De'Andre Johnson. Both players studied day and night together trying to pass their entrance exams. Johnson's hard work paid off a few months ago, and on Friday James followed suit and is slated to enroll at ASU in the summer. In an exclusive DevilsDigest interview, James talked about his trying journey and its successful conclusion.

The safety, who was rated the No. 8 corner in the West by PacWest Football, called head coach Dirk Koetter immediately after he got the results in the mail. "He was happy to hear that I passed, and he told me to come out Tuesday and fill out all the paperwork. He also told me to submit all the paperwork to the NCAA clearing house." James was assured that he still has a scholarship waiting for him with the Sun Devils, and once all the paperwork goes through he will be eligible to play in the fall.

Preparing for his college entrance exam has probably been the most challenging endeavor James has gone through. It didn't help matters when all indications were that he should have passed the test much earlier than he expected. "It was tough. I was studying real hard with De'Andre. We had the same tutors, and when we took practice tests I was always scoring above what I needed and De'Andre was always scoring lower. When he passed his test and I didn't, I said ‘I know I'm smarter than him' (smile). So I just took the test for the fourth time and passed it." James did say that if he had failed his last attempt, he would have probably enrolled at Idaho or Glendale Community College.

The Maryvale high school standout will join varsity teammate Daryl Lightfoot, and continue the tradition of Maryvale greats who played at ASU, joining players such as Darren Woodson and Phillippi Sparks. "I'm ready to play. I hope I'll be in the rotation the first game, so my family and everyone else will see me play." One player James has been keeping in close contact is fellow safety Jason Shivers, who has been very supportive of his fellow Phoenix native. "We've been hanging out in the weekends and working out. Jason told me that he thought I had a real good chance of playing because Riccardo Stewart and Joey Smith are hurt." James has been working out with NFL player Simeon Rice under the guidance of a personal trainer. Although James would have liked to play at ASU last year, he is reaping the benefits of his conditioning work "In high school I had an ankle injury, and now I'm totally healthy. It was good to give my body time to heal. I'm also a lot bigger than I was – I'm 195 now (which is 15 pounds heavier than his listed weight in his senior season)."

During his senior year, James was clocked running a 4.55 in the 40. He played as a running back in high school and amassed 1,129 yards and 16 touchdowns, while recording 42 tackles, nine tackles for losses, three sacks, and two interceptions as a defensive back. In a previous DevilsDigest interview, Maryvale coach Tom Bruney was full of praise when talking about his former star player: "Robert is a strong athlete who benches 350 lbs. He's a very hard hitter, and he's great in pursuing players. Besides being fast, he's very quick too. He has a great ability to change directions." In the same interview, the safety portrayed himself in similar terms. "I'm a fast player, but also a responsible player. I have good reads on defense… I like to hit a lot. I'm better in the run defense than the pass defense. But don't test me throwing at me, I'm still gonna ball (smile)." Ironically, in high school James played in the same 4-2-5 defensive alignment, which is currently employed by the Sun Devils.

Needless to say that the trials and tribulations that the safety has gone through have taught him a valuable lesson. "Don't procrastinate. In high school, I never studied or did homework. I would just show up for the tests and pass with a ‘C'. I thought ‘well that's OK.' I thought I could pass the SAT like that, but that wasn't the case." In both good times and bad, Robert James has reaped the fruits of his labor. Procrastination can indeed be a bad attribute, but the belated reunion between James and the ASU football team could prove as one that was worth the long wait.

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