When you start getting into double-digit offers, some coaches are going to ditch the no-frills approach and start telling you what you want to hear. It sounds more like a sales pitch than it does someone trying to promote their school.
Ask LaMichael James.
Going into his senior season, he was already a marked man by the opponent, coming off a junior campaign which saw him rack up over 1,600 yards on the ground and over 500 yards as a receiver, scoring 19 touchdowns on the season, as he led his team to the 3A state title.
That would have been enough to make sure that everyone looked at him as the main weapon for Liberty-Eylau. But according to LaMichae's Head Coach, their situation on offense really didn't give anyone any choice. "We knew, he (LaMichael) knew and everyone else knew that we were going to depend on him for a lot of our offense, because we just didn't have as many weapons on offense this year," Pat Brady said. "We told LaMichael even before the beginning of the season that it wasn't going to be easy.
"You see what he did and I think that speaks a lot about what he can do, because when everyone on the field, in the stadium or watching from wherever, knew he was going to get the ball, they still had a hard time stopping him."
It's hard to improve one year to the next, especially when you become a marked man as James was. But improve is just what he did, breaking the 2,000-yard mark in rushing, getting into the end zone 23 times. The senior standout even managed to get three touchdowns throwing the football, James completing nine of 15 passes.
But those are perhaps not the most impressive stats you will see
How about Zero? Yeah, zero. Zero is the number of punt returns James had on the season. Oh, he'd line up back there to receive it, just like he did every single game he played. There he was, standing back there waiting and not once did he field a ball.
"They wouldn't kick to him," Brady said. "He was our kickoff return man, too, and I think they kicked to him twice. He had around 35 yards on one return and like 50 on the other. But when it came to punts, they seriously didn't kick to him the entire season. Not once."
His production increased, but his team couldn't go back-to-back this year. But it doesn't lessen the impressive numbers this young man put together. Under circumstances which make many fold, Brady said that this kid simply rose to the challenge and beyond.
At 5-9, 185 pounds, that's impressive, especially when your team is asking you to carry the ball at least 20 times a game. "People look at him and they might not believe he could do that, but we did. We wouldn't have asked him to basically put the offense on his back unless we knew that he could," Brady said. "He did miss one game with a shoulder, but the other 10, he was elusive, physical and I don't think people really understand just how fast this kid can run."
James is listed as running a 4.4 and that is obviously not a bad time. But Brady didn't much care for what someone runs in shorts and on a surface where it's made for you to get from point A to point B, pretty darn fast. It's about football speed – getting it done and running away from people with the pads on, something that because of James' size, Brady finds that much more impressive to see.
"He runs away from guys who have angles. He gets through a hole and you might be right there and before you know it, he's on his way down the field," he said. "The kid can flat out move and honestly, he's got the best combination of running skills and ball-catching skills that I have ever coached. He's one of the best backs I have personally ever seen."
All this amounts to one thing, or maybe I should say, a lot of one thing and that's attention. Schools from as close as TCU to as far away as Minnesota , have all come courting this Lone Star-State standout.
And that's where it gets kind of funny
James didn't divulge specifics as to who have been feeding him lines, but oh, he's got some beauties. You hear about coaches saying anything to get a kid to go to their school? LaMichael knows just what that means.
You can start right away
"Yeah, I've heard that a few times," James said
You are the best back I have ever seen
"Yeah, I've heard that too."
You remind me of LaDanian Tomlinson
"A coach told me that, and I was thinking ‘whatever'."
Now, don't think that James doesn't believe in himself, but when you, a prep back who hasn't even gotten to college, find yourself being compared to one of if not the best running back in all of the National Football League, you start to think that something just doesn't smell right.
"Actually, I start thinking that even before I get on the phone. I have heard more stuff than that. Just crazy stuff. Some will say anything."
Now, James said that there are a few coaches who he has thought of as honest, to-the-point and people he thought he could generally believe what they were telling him. But just a few. In fact, a few is exactly what James means. "Yeah, I think three, maybe three coaches who I think are being straight with me," he said.
One of those coaches?
The new Husker Head Coach has only met James in the last 24 hours and there's still a lot this Texas kid doesn't know about the Husker state. But he figures Pelini was easy enough to read.
"The guy is straight-up honest. I mean, the way he comes across, you don't even wonder if he's serious about what he's saying," James said. "He's a lot different than any other coach I have talked to.
"He gives it to you the way it is."
After all the sales pitches, James said that when he asks serious questions about a school, what he likes about Pelini is that he feels very confident in the answer he'll receive. "I asked him about their situation at running back and he said that they have two guys who are going to be seniors and one of them might go to the NFL, but they weren't sure on that just yet," LaMichael said. "But he said that they didn't really have anyone like me.
"I'm not a big-back type and that seems to be what they have right now."
Of what James knows about the Husker offense, he likes what he sees. Of what he's heard about the facilities, he can't wait to get a load of it for himself. That's something he's going to do this weekend as LaMichael will leave Friday for his official visit to Nebraska .
But based on some of that stuff he's heard, there's also something he wants to "feel" for himself. "They tell me it's cold up there and that I wouldn't like playing in a place that cold," James said of what some coaches say to take some potential luster off the Huskers. "It was 85 here yesterday, so it doesn't get all that cold.
"But I like Minnesota and it gets cold up there too, so the weather isn't going to decide where I go. But coaches will say anything I guess, because they are trying to get you to go with them."
Based on what he knows about Nebraska, compared to the other teams looking at him the hardest right now, James said that the offer from the Huskers ranks right up there toward if not at the top. He's already visited TCU and Minnesota officially and wasn't sure just what he was going to do after he got back from the land of corn.
But he's excited for the trip, excited to see what the campus looks like and yes, he wants to feel just what cold weather is like as well. He's excited about all that and while he only met Bo Pelini briefly, he said that this guy is someone you could get excited to play for in the future.
"I like coaches who motivate you, who get on you when you aren't doing something right," James said. "My coaches here, if I am tired and want to sit down, if I am not doing something right, I know I'm not sitting.
"They won't tell you, you suck or anything, but I love coaches who know how to motivate and who are straightforward with you. You don't have to talk to Coach Pelini very long and you know that he's that kind of guy."