After much speculation over the last month and on the heels of a huge Rose Bowl win, it is finally official. One of the greatest Ducks of all time (in any sport) announced his decision today to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
This was announced on goducks.com website this afternoon around 3 pm: (quotes from LaMichael James and Chip Kelly)
“My experience at the University of Oregon has been one unlike any other, and one I will never forget,” James said. “I am grateful for the people I have met, the things I have learned, and the amazing community I have had the privilege of being a part of over the last three-and-a-half years. The community of Eugene welcomed me with open arms and has supported me since the day I arrived. I am lucky to have been a part of such an amazing place. I can truly say Eugene is my home away from home and a place I will always hold in high regards.
“As for my coaches and teammates — they are my family. I love each and every one of them and am eternally grateful for having each of them be a part of my life,” James emphasized. “It has been both an honor and a privilege to be a part of something as great as the UO family.”
James said he has yet to hire an agent but would likely do so in the near future.
The two-time consensus All-American led the nation in rushing in both 2010 and 2011, averaging 150.4 yards per game this season, to finish the year running for a school-record 1,805 yards. The Ducks’ all-time rushing leader (5,082 yards) also ranks second in conference history in career rushing and points scored by a non-kicker (348).
He completed his collegiate career running for 159 yards and one touchdown in Oregon’s 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the 98 th Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.
“I am 100 percent behind LaMichael,” Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly said. “He is a very special person and certainly will be remembered as one of the very best players ever to wear a uniform at the University of Oregon. It has been a pleasure to coach him for the four seasons he has been here and is comforting to know that he will obtain his degree this spring. I could not have asked anymore from him and I am confident he will be a success at the next level.”
Among the Oregon records now owned by LaMichael James:
most points scored in a single season (144, 2010) and career (348, 2009-11); most touchdowns – season (24, 2010), career (58, 2009-11); most rushing attempts – season (294, 2010); most rushing yards – game (288 at Arizona, 9-24-11), season (1,805, 2011), career (5,082, 2009-11); most all-purpose yards –game (363 at Arizona, 9-24-11), career (5,869, 2009-11); most 100-yard rushing games –season (9, 2009, 2010), career (26, 2009-11); and most 200-yard rushing games – season (4, 2011), career (7, 2009-11).(end)
The career statistics speak for themselves, though what can be lost in those numbers is how the 5’9″ 185-195 pound back got them. He was never the biggest or strongest back, but that did not keep him from being tough. Durable. Reliable. He ran with conviction and purpose.
Whether it was crashing into Cal’s defensive line over and over again in the 4th quarter of 2010 -with an injured leg- or the times when he was sprinting untouched in the open field (and there were so many), James was so important to this Oregon attack.
Some might say that next season James’ on-field production will be replaced, and that likely will be true to an extent given the talent on the Duck roster. The future indeed looks bright. Some also might argue that it’s the ‘system’ that helps, plug in any quick back and watch them roll up Heisman numbers, etc. While it is true that Oregon as a team has been putting up gawdy numbers rushing the ball since ’07, the fact is no one has put up more than LaMichael.
His 3 seasons of over 1,500 rushing yards had never been done before in the history of a conference that has had so many great players at his position. He is a very special, rare player that accomplished many special things at the University of Oregon, and will surely be missed. It will be interesting to see how the draft process plays out for him, and I for one will be looking forward to watching him on Sundays.
Here are a few video clips of some memorable LaMichael James runs:
LaMichael may be small by NFL standards, but the league has a history of successful players under 5’9″:
And speaking of small NFL running backs, here is my favorite: