Some players talk about leaders, but others show it. The latter is exactly what Richmond Hill (Ga.) wide receiver Sam James has done for his high school program.
James, 6-foot-1, 160-pounds, is what his head coach Matt LeZotte refers to as a patriarch of the football program at Richmond Hill because his actions have spoken much louder than his words.
One instance in particular is burnt into the memory of LeZotte during a grueling off-season competition day with the members of his team. On that day, the goal was to push kids to the limit to build team unity and on the last stage of one obstacle players were required to push a 45-pound plate the length of the football field to complete it.
What happened next defines the type of character James displays on a daily-basis.
“He had a teammate that was throwing up in the middle of it. He wasn’t even assigned to that obstacle but just popped up and pushed that thing 85-yards non-stop,” LeZotte said. “It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a workout just the way he took control and sacrificed himself for the team.”
LeZotte has no problems speaking about James as he has played a major role in helping change the culture around the football program during his time at Richmond Hill.
Always putting forth maximum effort into everything he does, James has been able to block out all distractions when he is on the football field and it’s something that has rubbed off on his teammates.
“It really wasn’t present until he started doing it,” he said.
A standout wide receiver and defensive back for his high school team, James started at defensive back near the end of his freshman season and has been a fixture on both sides since LeZotte inherited the team during his sophomore year.
Voted a team captain last season and undoubtedly expected to again for this year, James endured a difficult sophomore season due to the team’s struggles on the field due to simply being out-manned in one of the most difficult division in Georgia. LeZotte describes him as the type that hates losing more than he likes winning, which has helped mold his passion in the game of football.
“You could see the hurt in his eyes,” he added.
James rarely comes off the field for his high school team because he has the ability to stretch the field on one side of the ball, while shrinking it on the other.
“He’s just fearless. He’s like that in practice and I have to pull him out to give other players reps,” he said. “He’s always trying to work on something. That’s just how he is.”
A state champion in the 400-meter in track, LeZotte said that while he does have blazing speed he is not to be confused with a track athlete that plays football. He is a footballer with track as a hobby.
West Virginia is an ideal fit for James according to his head coach because it’s an offense that will get him the ball in space and allow him to use his gifts to make plays. LeZotte was especially impressed with the sincerity that the Mountaineers coaches showed especially cornerbacks coach Doug Belk.
“It was really heartfelt. They were serious about him and it made it an easy choice,” he said.
Away from the field, James is a standup person that not only listens but takes advice and applies it to his life in order to better himself. LeZotte credits James’ mother for raising him the right way and believes that his future is bright both on and off the field.
“That’s why he’s special and why he’s going to play football at West Virginia,” he said.
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