Kenny James: Chasing a Dream

"There was just something about the University of Washington." Those are the words of incoming freshman Kenny James, the all-world tailback from Dos Palos High School in California's Fresno Valley. James' prep accomplishments have been well documented. His 118 touchdowns at Dos Palos High earned him the recognition of the community, so much that it's earned him legendary status. Not bad for an 18-year-old.

All the notoriety from the local community put Kenny James in awkward position when it came time to choose which college to attend. He was forced to decide between following his heart or following his instincts.

He narrowed his choices down to just two, the Pacific-10 powerhouse Washington Huskies or the hometown favorite Fresno State Bulldogs. James mulled over all his options, considered every possibility, and when it came time to make a decision he just couldn't turn down the opportunity to play for Seattle's version of the Dawgs.

"I wanted to stay at home," James admitted to Dawgman.com yesterday. "I really didn't want to leave my family. But then again there was just something about the University of Washington that made me have to come. I really didn't want to leave my family, but everybody makes this step and has to leave their family at one point in their life. The University of Washington really caught my eye and made me want to come."

One of the main factors that made choosing the UW easier was the opportunity to play in a top-notch conference like the Pac-10. Now that he's there, he maintains a level-headed approach while heading into his first season.

"I've always felt like if I could produce at the Pac-10 level," said the 5-10, 200 pounder. "I know that I'll have ups and downs here, but it's to the point where I know that if I can endure the ups and downs, everything will work out."

There was some doubt whether James would qualify academically to play in Seattle this season, but those doubts quickly faded when he achieved a qualifying score late in his senior year. He couldn't have been happier to be one of the guys on the field today under sunny skies at Husky Stadium.

"After watching them on television and reading about the players, it's like living something I've always dreamed of," said James.

Playing for Husky Head Coach Rick Neuheisel adds to his excitement. "Coach (Neuheisel) is a great guy," James said. "He's a great coach, and it's my pleasure to be a player of his on the team."

As James looks ahead to his career in the Purple and Gold, he can't help but look forward to running out of the tunnel for the first time in front of over 72,000 Husky faithful.

"I came up here on my trip, and when I came the Seattle Seahawks were playing against the Dallas Cowboys," he explained. "Walking down that tunnel onto the field and seeing all those fans was exciting. It's something that words really can't explain."

The coaches have told James that he'll get an opportunity to show his skills this fall, not ruling out playing him as a true freshman. James doesn't have the blazing speed to make him a breakaway threat. But he does everything very well, and coupled with incredible vision, there's no ruling him out this season.

"He's just a natural football player," said Coach Neuheisel of James at today's freshman press conference. "That's exciting when you are talking about the tailback position because it requires so many different skills. We think that we've got a real gem in Kenny James."

"My plan is just to come out here and work hard and let my God-given talent go to work," said James.

Being one of the stars of the class and a prep legend in his hometown, he can't help but feel plenty of pressure as he begins college. He admits that he enjoys the praise, but warns that it can be detrimental if not taken properly.

"I think it has put a lot of pressure on me," he said, seemingly without any sense of panic. "A lot of people say that Kenny James is good and that he's the best running back around the Valley. Sometimes players let that get to their head and they go off (to college) saying that also and don't produce during game time. That makes them look like a fool. It's put a lot of pressure on me, but at the same time I'm not too worried about it - I know what I've got to do and I know the areas that I've got to improve on."

And despite being so highly-touted, James knows that certain areas of his game do need improvement.

"People tell me how good of a running back I am, but every good running back needs improvement," explained James. "There's always room for improvement, and I feel like I have to improve at a lot of things before I become a great player at the University of Washington."

So what can Husky fans expect from KJ? Let him tell you himself. "I bring speed and power. My plan is just to come in here and produce. Hopefully I can lead this team to a Rose Bowl and get a Championship ring.

"If it's 3rd and 2, I'm going to put my shoulder down, but if I feel like I can get around someone and shake him up a little bit then I'm going do that too."

When he does it, he'll be doing it as a Husky.

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