EUGENE, Ore. – Just five days after Oregon’s heartbreaking 22-19 loss to Auburn in the BCS National Championship game, Duck’s star running back and Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James said no to the NFL draft on Jan. 15 deadline day for underclassmen; but, at the same time reaffirmed his desire “to get a quality education” while forgoing millions that awaited him if he turned pro.
“I came to the University of Oregon to get a quality education as well as to play football, and feel I have yet to complete that goal,” said James in a statement read on local Eugene TV back in December.
However, there was speculation that with his arrest for a domestic violence charge last year, and then having a stellar year in 2010, that he might be packing his bags for the NFL as a way to start over.
However, James says he wants to stay in Eugene and play for the Ducks in his junior year.
Duck fans will not soon forget the hope that James brought to the BCS title game when he scored a touchdown reception to cut the Auburn lead to 19-17 with just 2:21 remaining. The Ducks then scored a two-point conversion, and then lost to the Tigers on the last play of the game after the Auburn field goal.
James, speaking via a Jan. 15 statement released through the Ducks athletic department, confirmed that he would return to play another season.
Although friends said “millions was dangled in front of LaMichael,” he knows that as a redshirt sophomore he still needs the school. Moreover, James just finished high school three years ago.
At the same time, Oregon State University, in nearby Corvallis, announced that a friend of James had decided to enter the NFL draft.
Oregon State Beavers running back Quizz Rodgers declared himself ready for the pros. Rodgers said he would not return next year as a senior as many in this community had hoped.
James was named the nation’s leading rusher this college football season, running for 1,682 yards and averaging 153 yards per game with a whopping 22 touchdowns scored during the Ducks 12-0 regular season.
The dark side of this running back
“It’s no secret that he helped us get to the national championship. But, he’s a kid, a sophomore who needs to take care of his personal business before moving up the ladder to the pro’s,” said Eugene Duck fan Barry Morse.
Morse’s reference to taking care of his “personal business,” is about James’ legal trouble from 2009 when he was accused and then arrested for assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
James pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge, and apologized to the woman.
After sorting out his legal troubles, the popular Duck star said: “My career at Oregon is not done.”
While Duck coach Chip Kelly had hoped James legal trouble would fade away, it became a hot subject again this year during Heisman Trophy voting with James coming in third to Auburn’s Cam Newton.