By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It was a heartbreaking loss to open the season for the Rutgers football team.
The Scarlet Knights lost an old fashioned shootout at Fresno State, falling 52-51 in overtime last Thursday night.
But one silver lining in defeat was the emergence of red-shirt sophomore running back Paul James, who showed he can be a big-time weapon going forward.
James, who was a star at Glassboro High School in Gloucester County, rushed for 182 yards on 22 carries. His night was highlighted by a couple of big-time runs, one went for 65 yards, another for 55.
“I was just kind of in the rhythm of the offense,” James tells KYW Newsradio. “Doing what I had to do to get the first downs, the yards, and if the big plays came I just took them.”
James, who came to campus as a walk-on, says friends and family definitely noticed his big night on the coast.
“My phone,” James says. “It was just blowing up.”
James redshirted in 2011, and last season he played sparingly, rushing for 22 yards. So the game against Fresno State was actually just his third collegiate appearance. Needless to say it was the chance he had waited quite awhile for.
“It was definitely really tough because you have to have a lot of patience and you can’t let it get to you,” James says. “You can’t let it overwhelm you, not playing. You have to just be tough, you’ve got to stick it out, you’ve got to keep working hard and never let the feeling of not playing or what people say, get to you.”
The big performance in the opener, coupled with a strong preseason, has led to James being named the starter for this week’s home opener. Pretty cool stuff for a guy who, despite rushing for nearly 3,300 yards at Glassboro, didn’t move the needle much during recruiting.
“Coming out of high school I wasn’t really that (heavily) recruited,” James says. “It came down to local schools like Temple, Rutgers. So I was looking at both of them and then I made my decision, because I felt like I fit more with Rutgers, it was in-state, and I felt like I could see myself with a future there. So I made my decision to go there.”
And that is a decision Rutgers fans are probably very happy with right about now. While the focus these days is on his college career, James says he still holds his time at Glassboro High School close.
“A lot of memories,” James says. “We won three state championships while I was there, out of four years. Only lost four games while I was there. I took a lot of the motivation and football tradition from being at the school with me.”
James and Rutgers host Norfolk State Saturday at noon.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.