Sims turns heads with triple digit rushing yard games
- Oct. 31, 2012
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As head coach Charlie Weis put it, the 2012 season might as well be titled “Groundhog Day.” Every week is the same; breaking down film, practicing, press conferences, all leading to a Saturday loss — and a James Sims 100-yard performance.
And here’s the thing, everyone — even the opposing teams — knows it’s coming. It wasn’t until Sims’ gutsy performance against Oklahoma State that Lawrence outsiders began taking notice. Yet Weis has said all season that if there’s a better running back in the Big 12 he hasn’t seen him. Many are now beginning to echo that sentiment.
“I think over the past couple of years he’s definitely shown flashes,” senior left tackle Tanner Hawkinson said. “The way he’s been running I agree with that statement.”
There were flashes against Georgia Tech Sims’ freshman year, when the Jayhawks upset the 16th ranked team in the country and the rookie had his first 100-yards game — after not playing in the season-opening loss to North Dakota State.
There were more flashes that year too. When Kansas came back to beat Colorado in the NCAA’s biggest fourth quarter comeback, Sims scored four touchdowns in the final 19 minutes.
And there was definitely a flash when Sims first visited Lawrence as a senior in high school. A flash in his mind as he stared at Memorial Stadium and realized the opportunities ahead.
“I came on an unofficial up here and I just fell in love with the campus and coaching staff,” Sims said.
It was Mark Mangino’s regime that Sims was attracted to. And it was Sims’ former coach, David Beaty, joining the Jayhawks’ staff that sealed the deal. Yet Kansas wasn’t the only school pursing Sims. The Mid-American Conference champions University at Buffalo came calling, but Sims had to say no to its likeable head coach, Turner Gill.
Not long after committing to Kansas, Mangino was ousted and Gill stepped in.
“It was a little difficult at first,” Sims said of playing for Gill. “Coach Gill understood where I was coming from when he was at Buffalo and we ended up together anyways.”
Gill finally had the running back he sought and Kansas had a bruiser that became hard to tackle on the field and harder to miss off it.
Sims arrived in the fall of 2010 sporting a flat top look with a spot of red dye on the right side. Walking down Jayhawk Boulevard it was easier to spot the hair than the man wearing it.
He was trying to be different and stand out.
By the end of his first season, he most certainly did. Sims led the Jayhawks in rushing with 742-yards and nine touchdowns. His sophomore year yielded the same results — more than 700-yards, nine touchdowns and back to back seasons as the Jayhawks’ best runner.
Everything was primed for an ever bigger season in 2012, until a OUI arrest last April put his starting role in jeopardy.
Sims was suspended three games by Weis and with Tony Pierson’s emergence as a speedy back, Sims would need to outwork his teammates to get his starting role back.
“It pushed me to get better each day,” Sims said. “Just knowing that I made a mistake and it cost me college games that you know you won’t get back.”
Sims began making changes over the summer. He dropped ten pounds, cut the flat top and added more muscle. It’s allowed him to gain some extra speed, run harder and to turn those flashes into full games.
Yet his first home game of the season was eerily similar to one of his freshman year flashes.
Kansas was down 20-0 entering the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State and it seemed the Jayhawks would be shutout after holding the top offense in the nation to its fewest points all year — until it all began clicking for Sims.
He broke off a 30-yard run, followed by a 28-yard touchdown. Kansas was right back in it. Colorado was on Sims’ mind during the comeback, but not the Cowboys. Oklahoma State was able to close out a 20-14 victory — Sims had 138-yards.
The game officially put Sims on the map and gave the Jayhawks something to get excited about. Sims matched up against the supposed best back in the Big 12, Joseph Randle, and made him look insignificant by comparison. The adoration began pouring with Sims paying no mind.
As if standing out in the Big 12 wasn’t enough, Sims said the flat top might return for his senior year.
“I’m not worried about being the best back,” Sims said. “Just going out and having fun.”