James attended three college football awards banquets from Dec. 6-10, running a gauntlet of catered meals. He came back to Madison 10 pounds heavier for the wear. James, however, returned to practice Dec. 11—the same day he came back from the banquet circuit—and commenced working himself back into game shape.
"I kept five, because I wanted the five, but…." James pauses here to laugh a hearty, good natured laugh. "The other five I didn't need."
James was a bit sluggish when he first returned to practice. His elite explosiveness was absent, a product of James' weight gain and his continued recuperation from an ankle injury that hampered him the last month of the regular season.
"I'm about 95 percent now," James said. "I'm looking forward to being 100 percent at the bowl game."
James is also content with his five-pound net gain as the Badgers continue to prepare for their Jan. 1 Outback Bowl matchup with Georgia. He said he devoted himself last week to converting his 10 pounds of bad weight into five pounds of muscle.
"I wanted to be a little bit bigger, especially coming into this game, to help me against the run because I know against the pass I'll still be a force," James said.
One week after the banquets, James' exceptional burst reappeared.
"We finished up with a run [Saturday] and he ran pretty well," Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez said. "I think he's getting it back off."
James, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, was a finalist for the Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik awards and spent Dec. 6-10 hopping between Charlotte, N.C., Orlando and Houston. He did not win any of those awards but he was honored as a member of the Walter Camp Foundation's first-team All American squad while in Orlando. He became a consensus first-team All-American this week.