Perseverance Has Always Paid Off for James

Three years ago, Robert James' dream of playing for his hometown school seemed out of reach. During the 2002 season, James was out and football and into his studies, as he tried to become academically eligible for the 2003 season. His transition to college football may have been rougher than usual, but his play and other circumstances have him now listed as the team's starting linebacker. The former Phoenix Maryvale star told Devils Digest that this is a role he intends to hang on to.

Robert James admitted that it was rewarding to see his effort in the spring get validated with his promotion. "Last year I didn't play as much," he said, "and the defense was difficult to learn coming off a year that I didn't play. I tried to learn the playbook as much as possible, and basically tried to get better in the spring. Coaches said I was making good progress everyday. Unfortunately my opportunity came the way it came (following Matt Fawley quitting the team), but I was ready to go when I got that opportunity."

The one time PrepStar all-Region selection, and an all-Arizona Second-team selection by The Arizona Republic was one of the best high school players in the state. Naturally, once he made it to ASU, his loved ones in the Phoenix area followed his career with bated breath. Did that close attention lead to some pressure on James who was trying to find his niche on the team for the last two years?

"Yes it did," he remarked. "My family asks me every Sunday in church ‘Are you gonna start? Are you gonna play?' I always told them the truth, that I was second team, and that I'm working hard so I can start. A lot of people just say that, but I really meant it all the time. I told everyone that I'm coming to hit this spring."

The sophomore started his career in the maroon and gold at safety, but felt more at ease when shifted to linebacker last year. "The position I played at Maryvale was similar to the ‘Will' linebacker position here," James stated. "So, it was hard to start covering receivers after playing linebacker in high school. Once the coaches made the switch I was good with that because that's what I'm comfortable with. I was under weight last year, but I picked up the weight this year. When I first made the move I really didn't know how to take on a lineman, but now I don't get blocked out (smile)."

Having only six tackles and one sack in 2004, James' perseverance which greatly aided him in passing his entrance exam test came into play again when he was in a role he was disappointed with. "I felt I didn't really play last year, but I did play a lot of special teams," he said. "When I played against U of A and UCLA I really felt part of the team." He joked that now De'Andre Johnson, who he paired up with James in studying for the exam and entering ASU at the same time James did, has to follow suit and become a starter as well.

Some of the Sun Devils may welcome the end of spring practice, and a break from workouts following finals. However, for James there truly is no off-season. "In the three weeks I have off I'm gonna work out with my father in Mississippi, put on ten more pounds, and be in shape for the season," he said. "I know that as soon as you get something it can be snatched away from you. I have to work as hard as I can so I can keep the spot at Camp T, be the starter in the first game and the rest of the season." That shouldn't be a problem for Robert James. The willingness to work hard has always come easy to him.

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