FLORHAM PARK [url=http://www.neworleanssaintsteamonline.com/cameron-jordan-jersey]Womens Cameron Jordan Jersey[/url] , N.J. (AP) — Darius James was pretty sure he was OK, even though he was sprawled face-first in the grass and his neck wouldn’t budge.
He wiggled his fingers and toes and had feeling in his arms and legs, giving the big offensive lineman some reassurance that he wasn’t paralyzed.
James was the starting right tackle for Auburn when his football career — and possibly much more — flashed before his eyes. It was Sept. 16, 2017, and the crowd of more than 80,000 packed into Jordan-Hare Stadium to watch the Tigers take on Mercer was silent.
“I actually was pretty scared out there because I couldn’t move my neck,” recalled James, who’s in camp this summer with the New York Jets. “When they rolled me over, I was good again.”
While blocking on a short run by Kamryn Pettway in the second quarter, James fell and teammate Mike Horton landed on James’ head. Doctors and trainers rushed out to treat James, who showed no movement initially. His neck was stabilized before he was flipped onto a backboard, strapped down and lifted onto a stretcher.
“They were like, ‘Just in case. It’s all precautionary. Don’t be scared,'” James said. “So, I wasn’t as scared when they came out there and talked to me. But it was a scary moment when it happened because nothing like that ever happened to me.”
It turned out to be a severe spasm in James’ neck, and it was relieved through treatment and massages. He was taken to a hospital and released after an evaluation.
James was back on the field for Auburn a week later for the Tigers’ game at Missouri.
“I feel like injuries, obstacles, anything like that helps you be a better player because once something happens to you, people think it’s the end,” James said. “But [url=http://www.chicagobearsteamonline.com/jordan-howard-jersey]Womens Jordan Howard Jersey[/url] , nah, you can still come back from all that stuff.
“I like to think of myself as somebody who comes back, know what I mean?”
James proved his resilience just over a month later when he went down with what appeared to be a serious leg injury at Arkansas. Again, he was surrounded by doctors and trainers — and carted off the field in front of nervous teammates.
“I was just like, ‘Ahh, it keeps happening again, man. Just something else to bounce back from.’ And I always bounce back.”
Sure enough, X-rays were negative and James returned in time to play in Auburn’s next game at Texas A&M two weeks later.
“Darius has had a rough ride,” said offensive lineman Austin Golson, who was James’ teammate at Auburn and is now his roommate during camp with the Jets. “Every time he got hurt, he’d get back up and fought to get better. He’s just worked his tail off to get where he is today.”
James grew up in Killeen, Texas, and was considered one of the top high school offensive linemen in the country despite only playing in two games as a senior because of injuries.
He flashed remarkable versatility as a five-star prospect — playing center, offensive tackle, guard, defensive tackle and defensive end. Several scouting services rated him the No. 1 center in the country, while he was ranked as the top guard by another.
James ended up going to Texas and played in six games for the Longhorns during the 2014 season, including starts at right tackle against Baylor and Oklahoma. But he struggled and was pulled by coach Charlie Strong, and then James suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“I tore my ACL right before the OSU game and (Strong) was trying to bring some of his young people in and he said, ‘You can stay here and go to school or you can leave and play football [url=http://www.sandiegochargersteamonline.com/melvin-gordon-jersey]Womens Melvin Gordon Jersey[/url] ,'” James recalled. “I thought it was the best opportunity for me to leave and play football.”
James transferred to Auburn and sat out a season, but then played in every game as a junior and senior — despite those two scary moments in his final year.
“The injuries I had, they weren’t that bad,” he said. “I came right back from them. I’m just ready to start this new journey.”
The 6-foot-4, 324-pound James signed with the Jets in May as an undrafted free agent. With New York, James faces a difficult path to stick on the active roster. There’s lots of competition for depth spots, and both he and Golson will need to have some standout performances in the preseason to impress coach Todd Bowles.
“We’ve been playing together for three years,” Golson said, “and hopefully we can keep it going, playing for the Jets.”
James has been used primarily at right tackle by the Jets during practice, but his versatility could help him. Bowles has typically kept backups who can be plugged in at various spots.
“It’s still early and I’m still feeling out the ropes,” James said, “figuring out where I fit in, figuring out how I’m supposed to play, figuring out the speed, the playbook. Everything’s going so fast and nobody’s waiting for you.
“To me, it’s fun because nobody else really gets this opportunity. You can’t take anything for granted.”
In the final game of a forgettable season, the Atlanta Hawks got a glimpse of what the future might hold.
It’s going to take a while to get there.
Getting starting on a painful rebuilding process, the Hawks stumbled through their worst season since 2005, finishing 24-58 to end a 10-year streak of playoff appearances.
”We’ve been in the playoffs every time [url=http://www.steelersfootballauthentics.com/le_veon-bell-jersey-authentic]Womens Le'Veon Bell Jersey[/url] ,” point guard Dennis Schroder said. ”To have a season like that, it was kind of tough for everyone.”
Atlanta closed out the season Tuesday night with a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, who have provided the template for all teams going through a massive overhaul. Just two years removed from a 10-72 debacle, the Sixers are a 50-plus-win team headed to the playoffs with one of the NBA’s most exciting young rosters .
”That’s definitely something we’re going to try to model after in a sense, just having that young talent, building and getting better every year, and getting into the playoffs,” said Hawks forward John Collins, who had a promising rookie season.
In his first year as general manager, Travis Schlenk began stripping the roster of veteran players, stocking up on draft picks and clearing out salary cap space that can be used down the line . With only seven guaranteed contracts on the books for next season – and center Dewayne Dedmon likely to opt out for a better deal elsewhere – it figures to be another offseason of jarring change.
All that losing can make it difficult to come to work each day. But coach Mike Budenholzer got pretty much the most he could out of his limited roster, sending out a team that competed hard every night and rarely got blown out.
The Hawks lost 21 games by less than 10 points, while only seven defeats were decided by 20 or more.
”We showed a glimpse of what we could be,” said second-year forward Taurean Prince, another of the building blocks for the future. ”We made a lot teams play harder than they wanted to play.”
Some takeaways from the Hawks’ season:
SCHRODER’S STUMBLES: Presumably the centerpiece of the Atlanta’s rebuild, Schroder is still dealing with his arrest on a misdemeanor battery arrest just before the start of the season and continues to show signs of immaturity despite this being his fifth year in the league.
”To be the leader of any NBA team, it’s a blessing,” Schroder said. ”But it’s tough to get up in the morning, go to practice and see 12, 13 guys looking up to you.”
COLLINS EMERGES: Schlenk’s first draft pick was a winner. After being selected at No. 19 [url=http://www.tampabaybuccaneersteamonline.com/desean-jackson-jersey]Womens DeSean Jackson Jersey[/url] , Collins quickly claimed a prominent role with his enormous athleticism and confident presence. Only 20, he should have plenty of upside as he improves his overall game.
Prince, the top pick in 2016, also had a solid season. He averaged 14 points a game, improved greatly from beyond the 3-point arc and can expect an even bigger role in the years to come.
AUDITION TIME: The Hawks used this season to audition several G League prospects and rejects from other teams, hopeful that their emphasis on player development might yield a few diamonds in the rough.
The most promising finds were point guard Isaiah Taylor and forward Damion Lee, who both showed they might have a future in the NBA if they continue to improve.
MORE ROOKIES: The upcoming draft will be a major step in the rebuilding process.
In addition to their lottery pick, the Hawks could have two other first-round selections acquired through trades as well as a choice early in the second round.
Schlenk could package that bounty of picks in a trade or stockpile the roster with even more young talent. Whatever he decides, it’s imperative that the Hawks get maximum value this summer to keep the rebuilding process on track.
BUDENHOLZER’S FUTURE: The Hawks coach seemed willing to go along with Schenk’s plan, even though it surely guarantees several dismal seasons before there’s any tangible signs of improvement.
Now the question is: Will Budenholzer stick around for the long haul?
Already, there have been reports that he might be interested in another job with a team that has a better chance of winning right away. Considering the dynamics in Atlanta – Budenholzer guided the Hawks to a franchise-record 60 wins just three years ago, only to be stripped of his power over personnel matters after a several questionable moves – it’s not hard to envision him moving on.
Coach Bud was once THE man in Atlanta. Now, he answers to Schlenk, who has full authority to strip this team down before he builds it back up again.
”I love what I do. I love this team. I’m focused on what we just did and how we can get better going forward,” Budenholzer said Wednesday, without necessarily denying that he might be willing to look at other options.
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