UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Senior wide receiver Nico James always wanted to be an impactful player for the John Carroll University football team, and that is exactly what the fourth-year pass catcher has become.
And with James’ production helping to balance a loaded offense, the Blue Steaks are in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs for the second time in three years and will host Wesley College at Don Shula Stadium Saturday afternoon.
“It’s been a great run for us so far,” James said. “I think we have great chemistry. I think our team has just continued to build week after week, and we’re just rolling right now, so we’ve got to keep that going.
Through the first 11 games of the 2016 season, James hauled in 26 passes for 333 yards and five touchdowns, the second-most scoring receptions for the Blue Streaks.
After catching 14 passes over the first three weeks of the season, James’ production tailed off as other wide receivers emerged as playmakers for the Blue Streaks. However, James has again become a key target of freshman quarterback Anthony Moeglin.
In the last four games, James has been on the receiving end of 10 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring play in a 37-12 win over Olivet in the first round of the playoffs.
“Nico’s another one of these guys that’s just so versatile,” Blue Streaks coach Tom Arth said. “He can play inside. He can play outside. He’s got incredible hands. He’s got a great feel for the game. He uses his body so well. He’s big. He’s strong. He knows how to position himself.
“We’ve just been so proud of the way Nico’s played all year. These last few weeks, he’s really come on and I think been a little more recognizable because he’s made more plays. It’s not to say that all season long he hasn’t been doing great things for this program. Now, the looks are starting to take the quarterback back to him and he’s making the plays when he has the opportunity. I’ve been very proud of him.”
The admiration between Arth and James is mutual.
In fact, the relationship James and Arth developed in the recruiting period is why the wide receiver elected to pursue a degree at John Carroll after graduating from Padua Franciscan High School in Parma.
“He brought me here, recruited me and I believed everything he said, so it was a blessing for me to get this opportunity to play here,” James said. “I’ve just taken it and ran. I love it here. Being able to play during Thanksgiving is something I’ve done. To be starting and playing the role I have this year on this team, it’s just a blessing. It’s great, so I’m enjoying it as much as I can.”
And now, with his college career winding down, James is focused on getting the Blue Streaks past Wesley and rewarding Arth with a National Championship.
“I hope we’re playing until mid-December and we’re in that bowl,” James said.