Today the Texas Longhorns will officially welcome in 15 new members to the football family but none of the incoming recruits have as much critical acclaim as Harker Heights offensive lineman Darius James.
Darius James talks about why he chose the Texas Longhorns.
The Longhorns' lone 247Composite five-star recruit in the class, James is the No. 5 prospect on the Fabulous 55, a consensus top-40 prospect in America and the nation's top rated interior line prospect according to 247Sports.
It hasn't been an easy path to Austin for the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Under Armour All-American. He went through a lot of emotions off the field after the loss of his grandmother, who raised him, when he was a sophomore. On the field he's battled adversity from two foot injuries.
Today he stands tall as the highest-rated recruit Mack Brown and the Texas staff will receive a letter of intent from, and he's got a bright future ahead of him as one of the crown jewels of the Longhorns latest recruiting haul.
Hookem: In the end why did you choose Texas?
James: It felt like a family. With everything they've got going on there and the fact that they're building a good offensive line gave me a good feeling. I felt like it was the right thing to do.
Hookem: How much did it help Texas to have Camrhon Hughes there and Naashon Hughes already having been committed when you made your decision?
James: It was big to know you had somebody there that you could trust. At the end of day you have to make your own decision and I was going to go where I needed to be going, but knowing they'd be there made a difference. They helped me feel comfortable with Texas.
Hookem: What's the thing you like best about being a Longhorn?
James: Knowing that you're a part of family. It's a really good atmosphere there. That, and knowing the best is yet to come at Texas.
Hookem: What's the plan for you when you start your career at Texas?
James: I'm probably going to start out at center but work my way over to guard. I'm hoping I get a chance to play tackle too because the freak athletes are there at defensive end and I want to test myself against the best.
Hookem: What are your thoughts on this recruiting class?
James: There are some good guys in the class. I just recently became really cool with Deoundrei Davis. I've gotten pretty close with Rami Hammad. I think everybody's cool with Jake Raulerson. I think with this class it's just the beginning. Once we get going I think it'll be special.
Hookem: What's your ultimate career goal on the field at Texas?
James: I want to play solid, get my name out there and hopefully one day I'll be a first-round pick. That should be everybody's goal shouldn't it?
Hookem: Do you feel like Texas has what it takes to win a national championship while you're there?
James: Yes sir. Absolutely. I wouldn't have committed there if I didn't think so.
Hookem: What surprised you the most about Mack Brown throughout the recruiting process?
James: It was just that he was real cool and that he's a great people person. He's so level headed when he talks to you that you forget you're talking to him. You can tell he's sincere when he talks to you because he never says the wrong thing.
Hookem: When did you know picking Texas was the right choice?
James: When they offered Naashon a full scholarship instead of gray shirt offer. Him getting that offer was really important because we'd always said we were going to the same school together. It showed me how much they cared about Naashon.
Hookem: Oklahoma and other schools made a push at you late in the recruiting process. How tough was it to stay committed to Texas for almost a year?
James: It's pretty tough. Other school still want you and they still want to talk to you. But what helped me is I looked at it like being in a relationship. You don't cheat on your girlfriend or you might lose her.
Hookem: How have the fans of other schools treated on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook?
James: I really don't pay any attention to them, but to avoid that I try not to put anything sports related out there. You have to realize they're alumni and they love their school like you love your school, so you can't be too mad at them for being passionate about their school.
Hookem: You got to work out with one of your idols, former Oklahoma All-American and Killeen Ellison standout Tommie Harris, last summer. How was that experience?
James: It was great because I got to see how guys at the NFL level work. He hated it because I was committed to Texas. Overall, just knowing he's from where I come from and that he's from the same city I'm from, it made me have to carry myself better. Being a kid from Killeen and working out with Tommie Harris, it doesn't get much better.
Hookem: Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
James: My grandmother. I basically lived with her for as far back as I can remember. She was like my mother. She kind of did everything for me and she was a huge part of every aspect of my life. Whether it was learning to tie my shoes or I was running for a touchdown she was always there for me.
Hookem: You played running back in middle school. Do you have fantasies about running the ball at Texas?
James: I hope so. I know it's probably not going to happen but it would be nice if it did. I like to tell people that I'm an athlete stuck in lineman's body. I feel like that's what sets me apart from other guys.
Hookem: What's your favorite memory from your playing career at Harker Heights?
James: We played David Ash my sophomore year and I had two sacks on him. I never thought then that one day I'd have a chance to be in the same huddle with him. We thought he was the best thing since sliced bread.
Hookem: You broke your left foot in the first half of the first game of your senior year against Round Rock Stony Point. How frustrating was the injury, especially considering you broke your right foot last spring.
James: It was real frustrating just knowing what I could do for the team if I was out there playing. I worked harder last offseason than I ever have so that I could come out and have great senior year. The reward at the end of it for me was getting to play in the playoffs. I felt we'd all worked as hard as we could to get there. To be the team that got Heights back to the playoffs and to be able to enjoy it with my teammates was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had.
Hookem: How was the experience of playing in the Under Armour game?
James: The game itself was the best part. Getting to go against that talent and performing well was encouraging for me. I didn't think I did that bad. The guys I went up against are what good college players are like, and now I feel like I have a chance to succeed. The whole experience raised my confidence.
Hookem: Who was the best player you faced throughout that week?
James: I'd have to say Robert Nkemdiche (the nation's No. 1 recruit who will play at Ole Miss). He was one of the only people there who was as good as advertized.
Hookem: Who has been the biggest influence on your football career to this point?
James: Coach [Robert] Hagey (Harker Heights' offensive line coach). When I came to Heights he showed me the ropes and showed me that even though I was big and athletic I still needed to know how to play with technique to be the best I could be.
Hookem: What are your goals at UT outside of football?
James: I want to get my degree. I'd like to be either an architect or a personal trainer.
Hookem: What's your favorite subject in school?
James: Math. I really liked geometry because I love shapes and I love to draw. That's why I want to be an architect. I love math and I love to draw, so I kind of put two and two together.
Hookem: With everything you've been through in your life, how much have you grown over these last few years of high school as you prepare to head to Texas?
James: I'm more level headed now than I was my freshman year. I learned that I needed and that I have responsibilities that I need to handle. Everything I've been through has really given me a lot to put in my heart and given more reasons why I need to push myself to make it in life.