Nick James admitted that leadership would have been a foreign concept when he enrolled at Mississippi State as a freshman in 2012.
Now entering his final spring, James intends to be one of the leaders for the Bulldogs – not just on defense but the entire team.
“I’ve got to step up,” James said. “I’ve got so many more steps to take. I need to be a team leader and make some big time plays for my team.”
It has been a process five years in the making for the massive defensive tackle from Long Beach. James arrived as a highly-touted prospect and played immediately as a freshman, appearing in eight games.
However, his immaturity off the field caused the coaching staff to make the tough decision to redshirt him in 2013 in hopes of teaching James some discipline.
“That year made me realize that I was no different than anybody else,” James said. “I sat back and saw that academics came first. It says student-athlete on my scholarship so I’ve got to be a student first before anything. Coach (Dan) Mullen says that off the field will show results on the field so if you have bad grades you’re probably going to have a bad season.”
James not only dedicated himself in the classroom but also to MSU’s strength and conditioning program as well. He came in at a whopping 355-pounds along his 6-foot-5 frame but has trimmed down to 323 and may not be done yet.
“Coach Mullen and coach (David) Turner kept telling me to get my weight down and I’d make more plays,” James said. “Hell, I tried it out and loved it. I may get down to 315 but I don’t know yet.”
James has appeared in 34 games throughout his Bulldog career and drew 10 starts last season. He has made 43 tackles, three for loss and forced a fumble.
Although he had over a dozen other offers out of high school, James is thankful for the impact his coaches and teammates at Mississippi State have had in his life.
“I love it here,” James said. “This is a family. If it wasn’t for Mississippi State, man I don’t know. It’s taught me a lot of values that I needed in life. That’s why I came here. I knew some coaches in recruiting were just trying to kiss my butt but coach Mullen damn near cussed me out telling me I needed to get right and that’s what I liked about him.”