“I had to get me a little beard game going,” James said. “I think just a little more mature.”
This now-former Bulldog defensive tackle does indeed look more grown-up these days. But what National Football League scouts are watching isn’t what James has added. No, it is what the big Dog has lost that caught Pro Day notice.
He’s removed much of that college football gut and reshaped other areas into professional shape. James still weighs 328 pounds, understand.
It all just looks so, so much better that the varying bulk he carried around Mississippi State’s campus for five years. Another Nick, strength coach Nick Savage, may have been most pleased and impressed.
“I can see it in his eyes,” said James. “He knows I went off to train and didn’t joke around.”
Note that well. An often-irrepressible jokester in his Bulldog days, this James edition is a much more serious and focused fellow. Since returning from one more Mississippi State victory, in the St. Petersburg Bowl, he has been training at a football academy in New Jersey.
Returning to town for Pro Day, James put on a show.
He dominated the weightroom work doing 29 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. “Yeah, 29. It should have been 30. But it was OK.” Then on the Palmeiro Center turf James took his two turns in the forty yard dash.
The near-30 scouts all had their own times. This writer had James at 5.13 the first time, a bit over 5.3 the second. James naturally paid attention only to experts’ watches.
“Some people said 4.9, some people said 5-flat.” Much as the numbers matter, the real takeaway was how smoothly James carried that muscle in the dash. Then, how he went through all the NFL-dictated drills and dashes and such.
“I felt awesome, man,” James said. “I was flexible, I felt agile, I was moving pretty smooth.”
Smoother than ever. There has never been any question of James’ pure and raw potential. The only reasons he was awarded just four stars as a Long Beach High prospect rather than five were concerns about motivation and focus.
Coach Dan Mullen activated James as a 2012 true freshman; then used ’13 for redshirting to take care of on- and off-field matters. Or as was not stated but understood, to test the kid’s commitment.
James survived. He served as a backup in 2014, started ten times the next year, and finished as a regular in the nose-tackle rotation last fall. Alternating with senior Nelson Adams and freshman phenom Jeffery Simmons allowed James to stay fresh and explode into offenses.
Now here he is working for the next opportunity. And the work is all-around. “I’ve been dieting, hydration, flexibility, Pilates, yoga. And it all worked out.”
Wait. The food and drink regimen is obvious. So is lifting and running. But the others?
“The Pilates help my core. The yoga really helped me getting flexible.” Would a great big boy have ever imagined he would train for the draft by all this stretching stuff though?
“Yeah, you’re right. But once you realize your career is on the line you’ll do yoga.”
Yoga and everything else resumes this week. “I’m taking four days off and going back to train in New Jersey. After that I’m going to get ready for a camp, for invites, and stay in shape.” Presumably, further enhance the new bearded look, too.
By all measures it is a more serious, well-focused Nick James these days. With the exception of this. The Pameiro Center echoed to great big woofs from the great big guy, just as he loved to bark like a dog in practices and games.
“I don’t think that’s going to leave me! I’m a Bulldog for life.”