James keeps original choice
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 3, 2011 1:47 PM
PIKEVILLE -- A strong commitment.
Despite the NCAA investigation that clouded the North Carolina football program last summer and lingered throughout the entire season, Jarrod James remained steadfast in his decision he made 11 months ago.
The Charles B. Aycock senior made it official Wednesday morning by signing a national letter-of-intent to play for the Tar Heels next season.
"You think a lot of thoughts," said James. "It takes a real strong person to stay committed from March all the way to signing day. God help me stand by my decision and my family definitely helped me stand by my decision.
"The recruiting game is crazy, a lot of fun. If you're not careful, you're going to get tossed around in it, so you have to stay grounded. Your first choice is usually your best choice."
UNC had 14 players to miss at least one game and seven sat out the entire season this past fall. Associate head coach and recruiting coordinator John Blake resigned after his close ties with NFL agent Gary Wichard became an integral part of the probe.
The Tar Heels toiled through the adversity and logged a third consecutive 8-5 campaign. They claimed a controversial, double-overtime victory over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.
James had numerous conversations with head coach Butch Davis, and most dealt with how he'll contribute to the team next year. There was little discussion about the NCAA investigation that created constant rumor mills about Davis' job and other aspects of the school's athletics program in general.
An out-spoken and articulate person, James took time to talk with his father, Livingstone coach Elvin James, about the troubles surrounding the Tar Heel program. A veteran of the collegiate coaching ranks, the elder James simply told his son to keep a strong will, strong mind and remain focused.
"He was recruiting people, while I was getting recruited and basically told me all the do's (and) the dont's," said Jarrod. "With all the coaches who offer you (a scholarship), always stay grateful, always keep those connections open. He told me to go with my gut.
"We had some times where we talked that he'd get mad or I'd get mad. In the end, the right thing is going to happen."
North Carolina has Under Armour and U.S. Army All-Americans on its recruiting list, ranking it as one of the top-20 classes in the country according to Rivals.com and Scout.com.
James got a taste of his future collegiate career during the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and the O-D All-America game in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on New Year's Eve. James became just the third Golden Falcon to play in the Shrine Bowl and second player selected during Randy Pinkowski's decade-long tenure as head coach.
"It changed my whole perspective of football," said James. "Everything I was thought was good or great, it pushed everything up several levels. What I really learned is there is always going to be someone across the country with the same amount of size, who might be bigger; same amount of speed, who might be faster.
"It's going to come down to who works smarter and who works harder. You're not going to win the physical game all the time, but you can win the hard-work game, the endurance game."
A three-sport letterman, James is using wrestling and track and field to keep him in shape during the coming months. He's improved his workout regimen in the weight room under Pinkowski's guidance.
"Everyone Coach Davis is bringing in is the best where they come from, and in some instances may be better than me," said James. "So, I have to take that personal responsibility to build myself up. I can't be left behind and I definitely need to keep working hard every day.
"The ball's in my court."
Editor's note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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