Edgerrin James was once one of the most feared running backs in the National Football League (NFL). Drafted fourth overall in the 1999 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami, James was expected to join second-year pro Peyton Manning in hopes of making an immediate impact and turning the Indianapolis Colts around, and that’s exactly what he did. James led the NFL in rushing his first two seasons as a pro, won Offensive Rookie of the Year, and set numerous NFL records throughout his career that still stand today. Rolling out spoke exclusively with the future Hall of Famer about some of his contemporaries, his charity work, and more.
“I’ve always been into dealing with the kids,” James says about his charity work, which he began officially in 2000 when he formed The Edgerrin James Foundation Inc. The foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was “created to improve the decision-making process of youth and young adults, enhancing the quality of their lives, and empowering them to make positive contributions to society through sports training and health-related programs.”
James displays his commitment to giving back to the community the same way he showed greatness on the football field, with his actions. He has hosted eight-week summer camps for 15 consecutive years free of charge. “I spend the entire summer with the kids, my kids included,” said the father of six. “The summertime is when you have the biggest impact.”
James has had a big impact on the college football program he played for, as well. In 2000, not even a year removed from the NFL Draft he was selected in, James donated $250K to the University of Miami athletic department. The university then announced that it would name the main team meeting room in his honor, so that it would be a constant reminder to student-athletes of his impact on the school, on and off the field. When we discussed this with James, he said proudly, “That’s where all of the big meeting are held for the football team and sports in general.” James wanted to give back. “I always wanted to do something for the school to show my appreciation and also to do something for the people that come after me,” he said. ”Without the University of Miami I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play football in the NFL.”
Speaking of the NFL, we spoke to James about some of his contemporaries, including a former teammate that can often be seen in DIRECTV and Papa John’s commercials. “He is always going to be successful when it comes to playing the game,” he says of his former teammate Peyton Manning. And though Manning is older, he is also wiser on the football field. “He understands the game better than everyone else. The game is so mental that anything you lack from a physical aspect you can mask it with the mental.” James applauded his many years of dedication to preparation, something he was able to see firsthand for the first eight seasons of his career.
We also asked James about another NFL quarterback nearing the end of his career, Michael Vick, who made his first start for the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. “Ben Roethlisberger always extended the play and Michael Vick has the ability to extend the play. The ability to extend the play and the running game works in his favor,” he says. James also called Vick’s talent, particularly at the beginning of his career, a gift and a curse. “In the early years, if he didn’t see it down the field, he could take off and run,” he says. Then James peered into an alternate reality, comparing Vick and Peyton, pondering, “Imagine if Michael Vick spent a lot of time preparing.” He added that Vick is a “raw athlete” with a lot more physical talent than Manning.
In 2012, James was inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor, and shared his thoughts on the recognition. “It was a great experience; it’s on your football bucket list.” He continued, “I’m one of the guys that made an impact on that organization.”
Though he was not inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2015, James, 11th on the NFL All-Time Rushing List, should eventually get in, and he is confident that will happen. He says, “If you look at my accomplishments, there is no doubt I should get in.”
What are James’ days like now? He reveals, “It’s the perfect life. It’s the perfect life that many people would dream of if you make the right decisions.”
James’ oldest child began her freshman year at Howard University last month. He wants his children to give back the way that he does. He says, “I have my daughter who is at Howard University … It’s a big deal that [my children] actually become successful, get their degrees, become entrepreneurs, and make a difference in this world.” James has set a great example for them.
If you check out James on social media, you see him posing with some of the biggest stars in the world of sports and entertainment, like Floyd Mayweather and Shaquille O’Neal. You also see him with the youth. All are fans of the running back who had the possibility of scoring a touchdown any time he touched the football, something he did 91 times during his career.