New York Gians cornerback Charles James is a Diamond in the Rough
When you think of football, the first state that usually comes to your mind is the state of Florida. Florida has been a very productive state when it comes to producing NFL talent. While many think of Miami, Tampa and Orlando to be the big cities that produce the players, they fail to leave out Jacksonville. Jacksonville is in Duval County which is covers the most ground in Florida, and is the famous walking grounds of one NFL player. No, I am not talking about Rasheen Mathis, or Bob Hayes; I’m talking about TEBOW-MANIA. Tim Tebow is a native of Jacksonville, Florida. Tebow may get all the hype now, but there is a new J-Ville native making a name for himself, from a small school in South Carolina. His name is Charles James, and he is a corner back for the University of Charleston Southern.
It was May 14th, 1990, Microsoft had big plans in the making because they were coming out with Windows 3.0, and Macaulay Culkin became a star with the movie Home Alone, but that was not the only star born. In a Jacksonville hospital, Charles James and Tanya Conner were blessed with a baby boy. Tanya gave her son the name Charles after his biological father. Very soon after, she would realize that she would have to be a mother and a father. Charles the second, never had a major role in his sons, life.
“I only met biological father one time that I can remember, he has never really been in my life”.
Charles father figure would come into his life a few years later. James would official have a father figure when he was 12 years old. His mother Tanya married Rickey Conner. Rickey would be there for all the critical years in Charles life, providing for both Charles and his two older brothers. Charles is the youngest in the family, and would find a love in football.
“I remember being in first grade and telling the teacher and all my friends that I was going to be an NFL football player. Deion Sanders was my favorite player growing up and I wanted to play corner back just like him”.
Charles would eventually attend Mandarin High School in Jacksonville to play football. Mandarin High has produced 6 NFL players in Fred Weary, Jeff Chandler,Mike Holmes, Sam Cowart, Tony Carter and Marcus Thomas. All but Holmes have went on to have successful careers in the NFL. Charles was a two year starter for Mandarin High, where he finished with 112 total tackles and 8 career interceptions. As as senior he was ranked as a two-star prospect by scout.com and rivals.com. Charles earned second-team all-state and first-team All-First Coast honors as well, but was known for his amazing speed. Charles is a track guy who ran the 100m, 200m and 4x100m events for the track team.
Charles went on a mission his senior year sending out film to every school, and putting together a highlight to help get a scholarship. He was forced to send out his own film his senior year, after his football coach died. Charles not knowing really what to do, did draw some interest. Only a few schools would show interest, but it was not enough to gain a scholarship from the schools.
“Both Northern Iowa and South Dakota State looked at me as well as Maryland, but I was never offered a scholarship”.
Charles was getting looked at by Maryland because of Mandarin High tight end Sean Stackhouse who was an All American tight end that would eventually choose Kentucky over Maryland. Charles would not quit though, he received a phone call from a friend that played quarterback and walked on to Charleston Southern University. His friend said, “you should send the coach your film and see what they say”. Charles would in fact send in his film, and the coach told him they would bring him as a walk on, but there was another problem looming in the path for the young corner back.
Charleston Southern found out that Charles was an academic non qualifier to play and would have to sit out the 2008 year to focus on just academics. Charles did just that knowing that he would finally get a chance to play college football. While in school, Charles raised his grades and was more focused than ever before another tragic moment in his life.
In 2008, while riding in a car with some friends, the car they were in lost control going around a corner, and Charles almost lost his life.
“We were driving around a corner and we lost control. I was in the passenger side of the car, and when we lost control I immediately tensed up. My head hit the dashboard and then the windshield. After that I don’t remember anything, I blacked out”.
Charles friends thought right then and there that they had lost their friend, as he was curled up in the passenger’s side of the car unresponsive. They called 911 and notified Charles parents of the accident. A blessing from God would occur to bless the young corner back, he would regain a little energy, and attempted to crawl out of the vehicle. Charles remembers just asking GOD for just another chance.
“I just remember feeling the blood drip down my face as I crawled out of the car. When I noticed the blood, I just said to myself over and over, God please do not let me die here”.
Charles would make it to the hospital and walk away with no major injuries. After a little time he was back to full strength and working at finally earning a spot for the Buccaneers. In the summer of 2009, Charles was finally getting his shot at the NCAA. He was officially a red shirt freshman for Charleston Southern and would have to prove he belonged. He started the season off as the seventh man on the depth chart for the Buccaneers.
“I knew I belonged on this team, I knew if given the chance I would be successful. I started off as the seventh on the depth chart and by week 1, I was the starter”.
That’s right! Charles James beat out everyone at the University at the corner back position and was given a full scholarship to play for the Buccaneers. His first career start would be against Jacksonville native and NFL hero Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators. Even though they lost the game, James played an outstanding game. He would finish his freshman year with 12 tackles and 2 interceptions and a touchdown.
In his sophomore year, Charles would begin to separate himself from the others at the corner back position. He broke a school record of three interceptions in one game against Liberty, and finished the season with 6 interceptions on the season to include 40 tackles, one tackle-for-loss and 11 pass breakups. In 2010, Charles finished as a 2010 AP ALL AMERICAN, and a 2010 Phil Steele All American.
Last year at CSU, the 5’9, 176 pound corner was named FCS defensive back to watch during 2012 preseason by College Football Performance Awards and The Sports Network and earned a spot on the Big South All-Conference First Team Defense. James was also named to the 2011 Phil Steele All American Team. He finished his junior year with two more interceptions to push his career total to ten (one away from tying Philip Ashley’s school-record). James finished third on the team in tackles (66) and solo stops (40) and returned 19 punts for 185 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown. Charles was beginning to get noticed around the Big South, because he was shutting players down. He held Chris Summers of Liberty without a catch, and whenever they played a big team he was coming up with big plays.
Charles went into his senior year with several goals and awards on his mind, but a hand injury would set him back a few games. He still would set the school’s all time interception record against Illinois. Charles is famous for getting a pick in big games, he has interceptions against Florida State, Hawaii and Illinois.
“I missed a few games with a wrist injury but the season is still young. I would like to win Big South Defensive Player of the year, Walter Camp All American winner, Buck Buchanan Award for the top defensive player in FCS, and be a Big South Championship winner”.
Charles has had to overcome quite a bit in his early life, but none will be more challenging than what awaits him, the NFL Draft. Many scouts have already been out to talk with the corner back, but James just wishes he could get a chance to showcase his talents in a bowl game or the combine with the best of the competition.
“I feel like I am the best corner back coming out of the 2013 NFL Draft. I keep hearing I am small, and that might be a knock on me, but many people are overlooking talents for measurables. If a person can run fast and is tall he is automatically considered a shut down corner. I believe I have great technique, ball skills, and am fast. My biggest knock is my size I feel I am an under-dog. If there was a showcase, I would prove I am the best out there.”
James might not be the biggest or tallest corner coming out in the NFL Draft, but he has something you cannot teach, HEART. Do you know who else had heart? The best quarterback ever in the NCAA, Tim Tebow. People were able to look past Tebow’s size and mechanics because of his great play and never give up attitude. Charles James could be in line for a similar path as his fellow Jacksonville native, keep an eye on my next Diamond in the Rough.
This article was wrote before the NFL Draft, Charles has killer instincts. After this article, Charles went on to play in the Raycom All Star Game where he was named Defensive MVP. Charles signed with the New York Giants and will be a huge signing for the G-Men.