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Thursday, June 21, 2018

LaMichael James: We Need to Avoid the Hype, Stay Focused

Oregon running back LaMichael James made an appearance on ESPN in advance of the Heisman Trophy ceremony. His team plays Auburn in the National Championship Game on Monday, January 10th, and he was essentially asked for the key to victory. His response was one a coach would love to hear.

“Can’t believe the outside hype,” James said. “Can’t get caught up in the media watching ESPN everyday listening to people tell you that you’re all high and mighty and all great, so you have to stay focused and keep grinding each day. That hard work really pays off.”

James leads the country in rushing yards with 1,682 and touchdowns with 21, but he is expected to finish second in Heisman Trophy balloting behind Cam Newton. The good news is James says he’s more concerned with winning the national championship than the Heisman, something he has a better shot of taking home.

Getting back to his larger point that the team needs to avoid the hype and stay focused, that’s the exact type of attitude a player needs to have. This reminds me of the 2005 season where Texas upset USC in the Rose Bowl to win it all. In the weeks leading up to the National Championship Game, ESPN was ranking the best college football teams of all time and trying to rank the Trojans.

USC had gone 12-1 in 2003, 13-0 in 2004, and they were 12-0 entering the game with Texas. The way they were doing things, it was assumed that USC was going to win its second straight title and be ranked based on that. You can’t help but think people and players got caught up with being told they were going to win because of who they were rather than what they did on the field. Naturally, after their place in history was already being debated, they went out and got beat by Texas.

With a month left before the game, there’s plenty of time for the media chatter and hype to get inside players’ heads. The good news for Oregon fans is that LaMichael James is trying to avoid it.

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