Kid Dynamite can Explode at Anytime

He may the player that has made the biggest impact so far this season for the fourth ranked Gators. Brandon James is a package of dynamite on the field. He can take a kick and absolutely make something out of nothing better than the Gators have ever had. James returned his second punt for a touchdown this season on Saturday and believes he can do it every time he touches the ball.

If you have watched him enough, you just have to believe it. James will look like he is pinned for no gain on a return or look like he should just down the ball, and seconds later he is heading to pay dirt. He has scored four times on punt returns in his career, tied with Gator great Jacquez Green. He still has a year plus to do his thing and believes that there will be more.

"Each time I am up there, of course I want to score," James said with a smile thinking back to his return Saturday. "(That's what) is going through my head the whole time, from the time I step on the field till I get the ball."

It's hard to explain exactly how he does it. From a complete stand still with someone barreling at him at top speed, to a big push and a jolt of lightning down the field, James makes the hard stuff look easy.

"When guys are coming down and full speed, if you just give them a side step, most of the time they are going to go for it," he explained matter of fact like. "It's all really instinct. It happens so fast, I am just trying to make a big play, being aggressive and put our team in a good situation."

Saturday saw a little bit of everything from James on his punt return for a touchdown. He caught the ball with someone in his face and moving at break neck speed, he stutter stepped avoiding that first defender. Then he took a step forward drawing the next guy close before he jetted left. Once over there, James had to stop completely for a minute to allow his blockers to swing by and block a couple of defenders. Then, like a giant sling shot, he shot forward with only one person in front of him. Another one of his teammates ran ahead and got in the way and that was all she wrote. For James, he believes it was one of his best so far as a Gator.

"I think that one and my first one in Tennessee that was called back were my best," he said. "It was good blocking, but at the beginning I had to do a lot to get out of it. The Tennessee one kind of put me on the mark my freshman year."

He has a little fun with it in the film room with the other guys a couple of days later, but is moving at too high of a speed to see what is going on during the return.

"During the play I'm not really thinking about it," James said about making his opponent look kind of silly and figuratively breaking their ankles. "I am just trying to go so fast and get in the end zone. But, after the fact, when I look at it. It's like yeah, I made some of those guys look kind of foolish."

James made a mark in the game from the opening kickoff. Everyone in the stadium knows about him and his ability to return kicks, but the way the Florida special teams lines up, he is going to get the ball. The ball was kicked high and short and James bobbled it to the ground for a moment. It didn't matter, he was able to "flip the field" as head coach Urban Meyer would say and by the end of the return, the Gators were facing first down with the ball on the Tennessee 48-yard line.

"It was real big, a big momentum swing,' James said. "It put us on the plus side and we went right down and scored. I felt like if I didn't bobble the kick I might have been a bigger play, but I just picked it up and got what I could get. It was kind of a wobbly kick and I just mishandled it, once I had it in my hands I saw a seam to the left and just tried to get vertical and hit it hard."

The big question is, why do teams not kick away from James? He just believes that football is a sport about pride and teams should have faith that they are going to be the ones to stop Mr. Explosive.

"To me when teams kick it out of bounds it shows they are scared," he said. "Teams are competitive and they want to prove they can stop a good return team. It's not surprising because I feel if we are going against a good return team I want to go down and prove we can tackle."

Special teams is such an important part of what Urban Meyer preaches to his team. The Gators probably spend more time on special teams than most teams and the play on Saturday certainly shows that.

"We really feel like it is our edge...over teams," James said. "We put a lot of our great players on special teams, starters and stuff like that. We just emphasize it a little bit more than other teams. Other teams work a lot on offense and defense, but we feel like if we can win the kicking game we think it will help us put a little bit."

James is very humble and always praises the other members of his return unit. Their collective work makes it a much easier job for him to do what he does.

"They block very hard and put a lot of pressure on me to make a big play," James said. "I just try to live up to their expectations when I am back there and just try and make a big play."

On Saturday, the Gators unveiled a new weapon of sorts. They inserted ultra-dynamic play maker Percy Harvin as a second option back to return punts. James had a smile on his face when he was thinking about Harvin and him and what special teams coordinators must be thinking when they see that duo back there.

"It is just another weapon," he said. "It just makes teams have to pick their poison. Hopefully we will keep that in and go with it from there...I wouldn't want to make that decision...either kick it to him or kick it to me. It's just a tough decision to make. It's just a whole other dimension we bring with both of us back there."

On the touchdown return Harvin lined up deep with James. When James got the ball, Harvin muddled through traffic to find someone to block. When James saw an opening and only one guy to beat, Harvin ran as fast as he could and laid into the Vol defender sending him back peddling and out of the play. James has a lot of admiration for his great teammate and his unselfish play.

"It shows what a great all around player he is," James said of Harvin. "He is very unselfish, for him to come down there and make that block it just shows how great he is."

The Gators seem to have about everything going right for them these days. It has been more than a couple of years since they have had to worry about the kick return units, thanks to a special player that is breaking every return record in the gator record books. Brandon James is just a little over half way done with his career and so Gator fans have a lot more to look for.


Fightin Gators Top Stories