Paul James, the redshirt sophomore running back for Rutgers University, is proving to be the little engine that can.
Unsigned, unheralded and unknown out of high school, the Glassboro, NJ native had the option to walk on and try out for a spot on the team at Rutgers or at Temple University, but that was it. There were no enticing offers to mull over or colleges recruiting him with lavish scholarships and legal benefits. It was simply, “yeah, we’ll give you a shot.”
So prior to the 2012 season, James chose to walk on at Rutgers. He was pushed to third in the pecking order and only carried the ball five times. But in 2013, his future has shifted.
In Rutgers’ first game of this season, starter Savon Huggins disappointed in the first quarter and because of an injury scare, he was taken out in exchange for James. And with the opportunity firmly in his grasp, not only did James emerge as Rutgers’ premier back, but as one of the best in the nation as well.
Still his name is not on the Doak Walker Award watch list even though there is no evidence to suggest why he isn’t one of the top candidates.
In parts of three games, James has carried the ball 61 times for a total of 493 yards. That is an average of a little over eight yards a carry, which ranks him among the leaders in the league. His average of 164.3 yards per game is better than all but one of the Doak Walker candidates, and his 493 total yards leads the entire NCAA.
In his first three games as a starter, James has recorded 100-plus yard games in each of them. In his last two, he has three TDs a piece as well.
James has become a huge big-play threat and is an unmistakably important part of the Rutgers offense. He is explosive, he plays incredibly well in space and when he breaks a tackle, look out. In three games, James already has three 50-plus yard runs, more than what another former Rutgers back by the name of Ray Rice had in his entire three-year career at the school. Incredible.