Meet electrifying Saluki receiver Darrell James


Dylan Nelson | @DylanNelson99

Junior wide receiver Darell James advances the ball during the first half Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 during the Saluki’s game against the University of Memphis at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. (Dylan Nelson | @DylanNelson99)

By Ryan Demer

Junior wide receiver Darrell James is making a name for himself in Carbondale, as he shredded opposing defenses with his speed all season.

James finished the season as the leader of SIU receivers in every major statistical category, as he recorded 773 yards, 8 touchdowns and averaged 16.4 yards per catch.

His stellar season earned James the honor of being named to the All-MVFC team as an Honorable Mention at the culmination of the season. He finished fourth in the MFVC in touchdown receptions and fifth in receiving yards per game.


“It feels cool in a sense, but it’s not good enough,” James said. “I’d rather trade the three 100-yard games I’ve had for three more wins on the record.”

One game that James specifically took pride in was the Week 2 win over rival SEMO. He said that it was great to establish a connection with then-starting quarterback junior Sam Straub early in the season.

Oddly enough, James is a bit inexperienced at the position compared to most receivers at the collegiate level, as he played running back throughout his entire career up to his senior year in high school at R. L. Paschal High School.

“I love playing running back,” the Saluki receiver noted. “It’s just a lot easier to go and make plays when you get the ball in your hands from your quarterback.”

James played running back since he was four years old when he played Pop Warner football in Beloit, Wisconsin. He found himself preying on the rural competition level. When he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, he was in for a major change.

“It was crazy because I got so much confidence from making plays and being in the spotlight,” James added. “Because of my past and who I am as a man, I had the hunger and determination to keep myself in a position as a standout player.”

A standout player he was, as he caught 97 passes in his senior season to go along with 1,413 yards and 14 touchdowns.


However, the collegiate competition is significantly higher than in high school, even given the fact that James played in Texas. He needed to continue developing his game to thrive at the next level.

“I’ve improved so much in route running since my transition,” James said. “There’s so many little things that go into running a route that a running back would never think about.”

There are benefits to James’ previous experience at running back, however.

“I’m not afraid to give a hit or take a hit,” James noted. “I think that once I get the ball I’m a lot more comfortable than a lot of receivers in space.”

James has been an explosive player for Southern his entire career. Improving upon his stats each season, he thrived in the Saluki offense this season. Using his blazing speed to blow past the secondary, he is always a viable threat downfield.

“This year he’s been able to step into a premier role in our offense and help us be explosive,” Saluki offensive coordinator John Van Dam added. “Defenses have to honor him as a downfield presence, and that allows us to open up other things.”

One aspect of James that transfers to the field is his work ethic. James is praised by coaches for how hard he is willing to work to improve his game.

“He plays hard; the biggest thing is that he’s been consistent each week this season,” Southern head coach Nick Hill. “Right now, he’s playing as good as anybody in the league.”

The work that James puts into the game of football isn’t exclusively held on the field. In his free time, he spends most of his time watching film of his peers.

“I mainly like to watch highlights of great receivers,” James added. “I try and see what they’re doing that I’m not doing and what I can be doing on the field.”

As the season wound down, Jame turned his attention toward next season. He is prepared to be thrust into a leadership role on the team.

Next season, James will be one of two senior wide receivers on the roster and the only one to spend all four years in a Saluki uniform.

“I’m definitely going to try to improve every statistical category along with my leadership,” James noted. “There’s always room for improvement in every attribute of life.”

In his ultimate plans, James goal is to advance to the next level and make it to the NFL. Though a big step up, he feels up to the task. He said that it all starts in the film room, as it shows everything you need to see as a receiver, whether you like it or not.

“One thing I need to do is become more consistent,” James said. “That’s something I’m in complete control of, so I just need to stay positive even in the toughest of times.”

When football is said and done for James, he plans to give back to the community. Currently, the Texan is majoring in sports administration along with a minor in coaching.

James’ vision is to eventually settle down at a high school or college to give back to the youth.

“I just look back at my life and see all of the inspirational coaches and mentors that God has blessed me with, and it has made me realize that I want to be that blessing for others,” he added.

Sports writer Ryan Demer can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RyanDemer_DE 
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