James has received e-mail, both positive and negative, from college football fans since he gave Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson a concussion with a hit weeks ago. The commentary, via e-mail, or in newspapers, has only grown more vociferous since James suffered a high ankle sprain in Wisconsin's win at Purdue two weeks ago.
James, who missed the Badgers' game Saturday against Northwestern as a result of the ailment, is trying to put the injury behind him and look ahead to Wisconsin's next game, a 2:30 p.m. home contest against rival Minnesota Nov. 6.
"I'm not going to miss that game for anything," James said Monday.
James added that the high ankle sprain he endured as the result of a cut block is not as severe as the one that proved chronic for Badger tailback Anthony Davis last season.
With seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, James has been the most feared defensive presence in the Big Ten, and one of college football's biggest stars this season. Lately, a whirlwind of controversy has added to James' budding star status but has hurt his reputation in some circles.
James is unperturbed.
"We've got three more games left," James said. "We have to go 1-0 every week. We have Minnesota coming up, very tough opponent I think. We just got to concentrate and get ready for this next game. You can't have other things on your mind."
Other things, such as the boiling words still coming out of Happy Valley. In the matter of a few series in a Sept. 25 game, James injured Penn State quarterbacks Zach Mills and Michael Robinson. The hit on Robinson was a facemask-to-helmet jolt that knocked Robinson unconscious and kept him out of action until last week.
"He put a cheap shot on our quarterback. It makes us mad," Penn State center E.Z. Smith said after that game, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, however, has insisted the hit on Robinson was legal. The Big Ten office reviewed the play and agreed.
"Those were very clean hits and that was verified over and over and over again," Alvarez said Monday. "That was about as clean a play as you can find."
"It was a clean hit," James said. "He just didn't brace himself for the hit because he didn't see me coming."
Robinson has been diplomatic about the incident.
"Football is an aggressive sport," he said the week following the injury, in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "If it was somebody else, I'd probably say, ‘Man, he really got him.' But it was me, so I can't say that. That's the way things go sometimes."
James was injured two weeks ago on a play when Purdue was called for a false start. The ball was snapped and action flowed away from James. After the whistle blew, James said he eased up a little—Purdue tight end Charles Davis simultaneously cut blocked James from behind and incidentally rolled his ankle.
"I saw the flag and I kind of stopped," he said. "I was kind of slow in bringing my other leg with me and that's when I got chopped."
James spoke with ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe during Saturday's game and intimated that he felt the block was intended to hurt him. He told Rowe that Purdue's players were telling him throughout the game that they were going to get him.
James declined further comment on that topic Monday afternoon.
"I kind of explained that on Saturday so I don't want to get too much into it," he said. "Like I said we just concentrate on Minnesota and just kind of move on."
Following the Purdue game, Wisconsin defensive coordinator Bret Bielema expressed disgust at the way the Boilermakers players were, in his mind, celebrating as the result of James' injury. After looking at the film, however, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said that the block was legal, though commentators have questioned whether the block was ethical.
James said that he was initially bitter about the injury but that he is only looking ahead now.
"That was two weeks ago, we are looking forward to Minnesota now," James said. "You can't stay back on it. You can do nothing about it. You can only move on and take it out of your mind."
Penn State quarterback Mills remained bitter last week.
"He's taken a toll on Big Ten quarterbacks," Mills said in the Tribune-Review. "He's finally gotten a piece of it himself."
The Tribune-Review piece also stated: "Robinson's mother said she was ‘dying for someone to hurt' James as payback for the concussion her son suffered."
While some e-mail messages have been supportive of James, others have followed that line of reasoning, telling James he got what he deserved.
"I read them but it doesn't bother me at all," James said. "I know what I'm doing and I'm doing nothing wrong so it doesn't bother me. If I was doing something wrong than I would probably feel a little upset to it but I'm doing everything I was told to do, everything you are supposed to be doing playing the game of football."
"I play the game the way it was meant to be played," he said. "Hard and fast."
James said he is not concerned for his reputation.
"Oh no, not at all. I'm just going to go out there and play football and play as hard as I can," he said. "If you go there and do that no one can say anything that could ever hurt you; you are just doing what you are told to do."
James has been receiving his fair share of positive publicity as well, having returned from a career-threatening hip injury that kept him out of all of last season.
"I just know I worked hard and I deserve every minute of it," he said.
He said it was not too difficult watching from the sidelines once again Saturday.
"I'm glad I only had to watch once," he said.