If University of Maryland football coach Mike Loxley hadn’t heard of Brandon James, he would soon have. James might even knock on Lockley’s office door and introduce himself.
About a month ago, James received a full scholarship to compete in track and field in Maryland. The coronavirus pandemic and hamstring injury forced him to miss his final two years at Morgan State, but as he entered the NCAA transfer portal, Teppes made offers to him along with Nebraska and Louisville .
James never played high school football, but he was extremely athletic. He can walk into almost any basketball arena, break some ankles, and pull out about 20 points. At New Town High School in Owings Mills, he played point guard for the basketball team and averaged nearly 6 goals as a hockey midfielder before concentrating on indoor and outdoor track and field his senior year.
Oh, and he did play catcher for the football team for a day or two before he gave up other sports, until his track coach Jordan Davis advised him not to. But even after watching a practice session, assistant football coaches from Maryland and Morgan State dismissed him to talk about playing for their programs.
“Brandon has always been a freak athlete who can play any sport he chooses to play and perform well,” said Newtown athletic director Preston Waters, a former starting cornerback for West Virginia. “He’s always had that kind of speed from movement to movement, which ultimately gives him an edge. With his IQ, you just put him in a position where he can be successful.
“We all know guys with straight-line speed, but once you put them on the pad, it’s like they’re running in quicksand. I think he could be a great catcher.”
But let’s not jump too far.
In Metro, he was the state indoor champion in the 300 and 500 meters, and the state outdoor champion in the 200 and 400 meters. His personal bests were 10.5 seconds in the 100, 21.1 in the 200 and 47.8 in the 400. The pandemic and a long-term hamstring/knee injury cut short his career at Morgan, which graduated Saturday with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, but Maryland will allow him to earn another psychology degree.
According to James, 22, it was time to leave Morgan.
“The head coach and I have some disagreements, and Maryland, because it’s a bigger school with more facilities and resources, offers more opportunities,” he said. “Before, I never thought I would have a chance to heal myself completely, but now I can run, lift and sprint without any issues or discomfort.
“When Maryland first started recruiting me, they were a little soft on me because I was a risky athlete. But I played in the NCAA regional championships my freshman year [at Morgan], so they know I can do it. “
But it’s not always about time and distance. Terps assistant track coach Garfield Ellenwood likes James’ attitude.
“He had some great years out of high school, and I feel like there’s more in his tank to improve,” Alan Wood said. “I talked to him once and I really liked him. He had a lot of confidence in him, which is what you look for in a sprinter. I saw a lot of myself in him and I knew it was my type of athlete. “
This is arrogance.
Some might call it confidence, but James crossed the line. However, that’s part of the reason for his success. While playing hockey in Metropolis, James never got off the court. He’s part of a dying breed in the sport, a two-way midfielder who is both offensive and defensive. The only time he rests is when he is diverted to attack.
“I’m just sick of it,” James said when asked why he stopped playing hockey. “In lacrosse, you have to control your speed, you don’t have to go full speed all the time. I always knew I was fast, but I didn’t know I was that fast.”
Ask James about his future goals, and he spit it out without hesitation.
“I want to be a pro, play in the NFL, win a gold medal at the Olympics, run the 200-meter sprint,” he said. “When I play in 2024, it will be time for the next Olympics and I want to be ready for that.”
Alan Wood said the 2024 Paris Olympics are possible.
“With his confidence and background, anything is possible,” Alan Wood said. “I think a lot of athletes, maybe not ‘A’ [level] Boy, but that ‘B’ or ‘C’ kid with that ‘A’ drive and wants to develop, then the Olympics are possible, so I can’t say he can’t be next. “
James wasn’t always that goal-oriented, but he admits his dad Glenn always had the right perspective and inspired him. If his dad hadn’t instilled confidence, he wouldn’t have been able to play multisport.
It wasn’t until his senior year that he started to become so goal-oriented, which is why James returned to Metro City to talk about hard work with athletes.
“I tell them the formula, and you just can’t average,” he said. “Everyone wants to go to a first-level college, but they don’t always want to put in the time and work. Sometimes I get lazy, but if I’m not willing to do the work I did in my senior year, any scholarships and honors will not come.
“It’s easy to work hard now. Discipline, that really doesn’t matter.”
James hopes that discipline will get him into professional track and field, the Olympics and the NFL. He said he recently completed a 38-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot-1 long jump without training. By contrast, college football players spend months preparing for NFL scouting. For example, Ravens rookie cornerback Damon Williams, fourth-round pick Houston, has a 34.5-inch vertical jump and an 11-8 long jump.
Rookie running back Tyler Badie, a sixth-round pick from Missouri, is 33.5 in the vertical jump and 12-1 in the long jump.
It’s unlikely that Maryland track officials would allow James to play football as a catcher or returner, but if the 6-foot, 160-pound James has played in some type of NFL professional game, especially if he’s in the Olympics.
“He’s always been an athlete and can do whatever he wants,” Waters said.