James' hate for KU matures

You could always rely on Marcus James for a really good KU quote, especially when you brought the Jayhawks' mascot into the conversation. But James has changed, and the way he approaches Saturday's game is good reflection of the way he has matured.

Marcus James kind of laughs at how he used to be.

James, Missouri's punt returner and backup receiver, laughs at the kind of hate he had for Kansas, his home state. He laughs at some of the things he used to say before Missouri played its annual game against the Jayhawks.

"It's a little dumb bird with a big head and funny shoes," James said about the Jayhawk before the 2001 matchup. "It looks like a turkey with shoes that got lost during Thanksgiving or something. We're just going to go over there and whoop up on those guys just because their mascot is ugly."

Back then, you could have called James a little bitter. A native of Liberal, Kan., James grew up a Kansas fan. That is until the Jayhawks never offered him a scholarship offer. James went to rival Missouri, and his KU allegiance went down the pipes.

But James doesn't spend his Mondays making fun of mascots anymore. He's been through quite the ride at Missouri: backup to starter to backup to starter and back to backup. And it's made him that much more mature.

At this point, football player doesn't quite have the same ring as father and college graduate. James has a little girl now. Quincy James, who is 16 months old, will be in attendance Saturday with her mother.

By the end of the year, Marcus will become the first person in his family to graduate from college. That whole "beating Kansas" thing doesn't quite seem as important when he puts it in perspective now.

"This is my last year of eligibility, and I won't make fun of them this year," James said. "I think that's the maturity I've gained.

"This game is something that shouldn't be blown up as more than it is."

But he does realize how big this game can be to others. As he was walking back to the Dan Devine building after Saturday's game, two men drinking by an RV in the Memorial Stadium parking lot yelled, "Beat KU" at every player that passed.

"This game matters to every person that ever wore a black-and-gold jersey," James said. "Most of the time, you're going to be remembered by how many times you beat Kansas, no matter if you go undefeated or you lose every other game. That game matters that much to everyone around here."

And although he hasn't made fun of Little Jay's shoes this year, you can include James in that group.

"This is big game to me," he said. "I'm going to play with a lot of emotion. It's going to be an emotional environment, going back home and all. This game means so much to me. It's Kansas, and I'm a home-grown Kansas guy turned into a full-blooded Tiger."

Black & Gold Illustrated Top Stories