That’s right, the newest Seahawk played for Jim E. Mora earlier in his career, when both were with the Indianapolis Colts. So when Mora’s son, Jim L., needed a second opinion about the 31-year-old running back reached out to this father – who just happened to be in town over the weekend.
“I take my dad’s opinions pretty seriously, and he told me that this was one of his favorite football players of all-time – a great locker room guy, a great teammate,” the younger Mora said Wednesday, when James practiced with the Seahawks for the first time after signing a one-year contract Tuesday night.
“So I’m looking forward to what he can add to this team.”
James comes to his third NFL team with a lot of rushing yards (12,121, tops among active NFL players and 11th on the all-time list), but also a lot of mileage (2,982 carries in his 10-year career).
But even after an offseason filled with personal tragedy and professional uncertainty, James also arrives with a hunger to win – and do whatever is necessary to help the Seahawks do just that.
“I’m not in a position where I have to play, I want to play,” said James, who was wearing his usual No. 32 on a different jersey after cornerback Kevin Hobbs relinquished the number.
“It’s not where I’m forced to play. I’ve done a lot in his league and I’m not somebody who’s just coming out here just to pick up a paycheck. I want to play, and that’s the best part about.”
That attitude carries over to sharing carries with Julius Jones, who remains the starter with James as his backup.
“It’s a cool situation to come in here and play with Julius,” James said. “I’m not here to compete with Julius, I’m here to complement him and for us to work together.”
As Mora put it, “Julius is going to be our workhorse, our lead dog. And to be able to get a guy of Edgerrin’s caliber, and of his personality, and of his pedigree, I guess you want to say, to come in here and do what he’s going to do, it’s really a bonus for us.”
Mora didn’t just take his father’s word on James before deciding he was the right guy. He also looked at video from James’ final few games with the Arizona Cardinals last season – which included a 100-yard rushing effort against the Seahawks in the regular-season finale and a pair of 73-yard games in the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.
“That’s what we based it upon mostly,” Mora said. “That, and his history of being a tough, physical runner that’s durable, that doesn’t take losses, he gains yards. Even if it’s half a yard, he’s moving the chains. When we watched him on film, he still looked like that guy. He can punish people. He can find the crease.”
Despite helping the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl last season, his third with the team after seven ridiculously productive years in Indianapolis, James’ role was diminished in 2008. He asked the Cardinals to release him after the season. The club granted that request, after it selected Ohio State running back Chris Wells in the April NFL draft.
But being “homeless” was nowhere near the most pressing issue in his life. Andia Wilson, James’ longtime girlfriend and the mother of his four children, died of leukemia on April 14. She was 30.
“Football wasn’t something that I was concerned with,” James said. “I had other things going on, so I wasn’t worried about that right there. I was happy to have my freedom to have a choice, if I wanted to go do this and if I wanted to go do that.
“With everything that happened, I just wanted to make sure my family was straight and that situation was taken care of. That was the most important thing. With what went on this offseason, I just don’t want to blow it as a parent.”