Edwardsville's James signs with Minnesota

News-DemocratFebruary 5, 2014 

Edwardsville High School defensive back Craig James saw no point in making an early verbal commitment when it came to choosing a college.

James enjoyed the drama of keeping people guessing, waiting until Wednesday's signing day to announce he was headed to the University of Minnesota to play football.

"I didn't want it to be like right away after the visit," James said. "I wanted to be like other (recruits), where there's a surprise and have people guessing."

On a highlight film released on Youtube.com, Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys called James "very explosive and a great man coverage guy. He has great track times.

"When it comes to being into the boundary and shutting down players, he'll give us that ability and at the same time, he's a great return person on special teams. A very explosive player. We've definitely improved our talent by getting Craig."

A first-team All-Area cornerback who has been timed at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash, James (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) had four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 29 tackles. He is the younger brother of McKendree football player Cameron James.

There was no drama when it came to Craig James' college visits. He visited Indiana and Kansas along with Minnesota, but once he got to Minnesota the decision process was over.

"They didn't have to do a lot," James said of the Big Ten university located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. "Right when I got out of the airport, just the city in general was lovely and nice and when we hit the campus it was stunning and amazing.

"I called my mom right then and there and told her I loved it. Right when I saw the campus I knew it was going to be a Golden Gopher."

Led by former Southern Illinois University Carbondale coach Jerry Kill, the Gophers were 8-5 this season and lost 21-17 to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.

Edwardsville was 12-1 last season, losing to eventual Class 7A state champion (Chicago) Mount Carmel in the semifinals.

"I honestly loved it and I'm sad that it ended so soon, but also happy that we got that far," said James, who recalled his freshman year when he and several teammates made a pact to make big things happen before their high school careers ended. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to try to be the best."

Tigers coach Matt Martin was proud to see James make it official by signing his letter of intent. James is being recruited as a cornerback as well as a kickoff and punt returners.

"I think he knew for a long time, but he's happy with his decision," Martin said. "He's got a great opportunity in front of him, going to a good school with a good coaching staff.

"You've got an opportunity to play college football at a high level and get your school paid for. Not a lot of people get to do that. He's worked hard and he's earned it, but he's been blessed as well."

What makes James such a special player on defense?

"He's pretty fast and he's agile --and he can make plays on balls," Martin said. "He's got good hand-eye and reads the ball in the air really well. I think that separates him from a lot of kids and also he's a physical tackler.

"He's got everything they're looking for."

Other Tigers signing with schools included defensive back D'Anthony Knight (Truman State), receiver Darius Crochrell (McKendree) and tight end Hayden Schmidt (William Jewell).

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service