Healthy and Ready to Make an Impact

First day of full pads practice. That alone should be reason enough to make linebacker Robert James smile. Yet, the senior is also excited about being pain-free, encouraged with the faith the coaches have in him and the opportunity to play his final year for the Sun Devils in front of his friends and family.

A concussion suffered mid-season last year, wasn't enough to sideline Phoenix Maryvale High School standout Robert James for a game against Stanford. However a neck injury in a subsequent week caused him to ultimately miss the last five games of the season. The first tackle he registered in spring, brought back the most common side effect of a concussions – headaches. Consequently, he missed the remainder of the 15-practice session. His condition did require him at one point to be hospitalized. The future of his college football career certainly seemed bleak just a few months ago.

"From the hospital bed it didn't seem possible to be here in the first day of pads, so I'm happy," said the senior linebacker after Monday's practice. "I'm a little rusty, but I'm happy that I have no head problems and that I'm healthy. I just need to get back in the grove and get things going. I only had one day of spring ball and I'm still learning the new scheme."

James indicated that he was proactive is familiarizing himself with the defensive playbook and has spent time with his position coach and defensive coordinator Craig Bray trying to master the playbook. "I'm working hard on knowing my assignments and knowing where I'm supposed to be," he explained. "I don't wanna feel like I'm lost there not knowing what I'm doing…not being able to practice in the spring I kinda felt left behind. It's just like when you miss class you have to catch up and do all the assignments that were due. So I've been studying hard."

The linebacker may be overly humble in his self-assessment, as he's been the starting WILL (weak-side) linebacker ever since fall practice began. "It's a good feeling to be with the ones, but there's some stuff I need to do better," he admitted. "My reads, coming down hard on the runner…stuff like that. I'm at 225 and I'm feeling like I'm faster than last year."

The Hometown kid wants to naturally end his ASU career with a blaze of glory. The extra conditioning he has done have allowed him to increase his speed, which is music to the ears of Coach Bray who stated many times in the past that speed at the linebacker spot is a necessity, not a luxury. "This is my last year and I have to give it my all," he stated. "I worked really hard, did all the 7's on 7's with the team…I'm feeling real good."

"We have a good linebacker core, a good defense; I'm very excited to get the games going on. We have to take it one game at a time, get good depth…we practice against a great running game everyday and that helps us get ready for the Pac-10."

James quipped that he was shooting for 100 tackles at the end of the season. Otherwise, he yearns to: "Play the best I can play and show up in the big games."

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