Oregon’s LaMichael James receives Doak Walker Award
Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Last Friday, the PwC SMU Athletic Forum presented the Doak Walker Award to Oregon running back LaMichael James at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.
The Doak Walker Award has been presented annually since 1989 to the nation's best running back on and off the field.
"It's a pleasure for me to be able to enjoy this award with my family, my high school coach and my position coach," said James, who originally received the award in Orlando, Florida in December. "It's just an honor to be here."
James makes up for his small stature (5'9, 180) with his ankle breaking jukes and undeniable speed that helped lead Oregon to the BCS National Championship game. The sophomore led the nation in yards per game and compiled over 1,700 yards while scoring 21 touchdowns enroute to being named 1st team All-America and 1st team All Pac-10.
In the title game, James rushed for 49 yards, recorded four receptions for 39 yards, and scored two touchdowns, however, Oregon fell short of being crowned champions losing to Auburn 21-19. James was not satisfied with just playing for a national championship and is determined to bring a title to Eugene, Oregon.
"I don't think so close exists, you have to keep getting better," he said. "The only way we can get better is to win a a national championship, next year we have to play harder."
Instead of bolting for the NFL, the talented Oregon star decided to stay in college and pursue a degree in Sports Business.
"I have to get my degree, it's really important to me," James said.
The Doak Walker Award is the only major collegiate award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing. James currently maintains a 3.0 GPA and was named Pac-10 All-Academic First Team.
Before all the glamor and fame, James grew up in Texarkana, Texas so a return to his native state where it all began to accept this prestigious award was only fitting. During his senior year at Texarkana Liberty-Eylau, James rushed for 2,043 yards and 26 touchdowns and led the Leopards to a Class 3A Texas State Championship.
"He was something special and we knew that early," James' high school Head Coach Pat Brady said. "We tried to build things around him and showcase his talents."
A four-star prospect, James originally committed to TCU but decided staying in Texas wasn't for him and switched his commitment to Oregon. The small Texas town athlete embarked on a 2,000-mile journey across the nation,and the rest is history.
"Sometimes it's good to get away so you can get focused," James said of his decision to leave Texas. "Leaving Texas was really big for me, it helped me mature and I learned to be on my own. Being 40 hours from home is like being in another world."
James' arrival on campus came without much excitement and fanfare. Instead of making an immediate impact, James was redshirted for the entire 2008 season and contemplated a return back to Texas. However, James worked hard on the scout team and returned to Oregon for the 2009 season.
Opportunity came knocking when starting running back LeGarrette Blount was suspended after punching Boise State's Bryan Hout in the 2009 opener.
James saw his chance and busted onto the scene as he became the first Oregon freshman to surpass 1,000 yards rushing and finished with a Pac-10 Conference freshman rushing record of 1,546 yards.
Although James is in the national spotlight and receives endless amounts of media coverage, he remains humble, an attribute that Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly admires the most.
"I'm really blessed and grateful, I think I live more of my dreams in one day than most people live in their entire life so I'm just really honored," James said. "You just can't really take anything for granted because everything can be taken away from you."
The PwC SMU Athletic Forum also honored former LSU and Green Bay Packers running back Jim Taylor with the Doak Walker Legends Award.
Taylor was the 15th overall pick in the 1958 NFL Draft after an All American senior season at LSU. He went on to help lead the Packers to a 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I and scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. Taylor finished his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints in 1967 and was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976.
"I'm so humbled and it's a great feeling to receive this accolade," Taylor said.
Ironically, LSU will take on Oregon in the 2011 season opener at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. When asked what he was looking forward to most about the 2011 season, it came as no surprise when James said "playing LSU." A victory over Taylor's Tigers will be the ultimate homecoming gift for James who overcame every obstacle one can face to become the extraordinary man he is today.
Note: Doak Walker was an All American running back at SMU and winner of the 1948 Heisman Trophy.