INDIANAPOLIS — LaMichael James is fine with being different. Slightly smaller than most running backs, coming from an offense that ran slightly faster than most attacks, James is comfortable with where he stands. Even if it is in Eugene, Ore., another odd choice for a Texas-born runner.
"You just go," James said. "You got to take a leap of faith. I don't want to be like everyone else. I wanted to be different. I didn't want to be like, 'Yeah, you went to Texas; you went to OU.' That's what everybody does. I just wanted to be different."
Concerns about James have centered on his stature. He stands just 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs only 194 pounds, but he told the media at the 2012 NFL Combine that he has gotten stronger. As for whether he plans on bulking up in the future, James said that at some point he just has to play his game.
"I just got to go out there and continue being me," James said. "Whatever weight I was before, it got me this far, so I don't think I need to go out there and change too dramatically."
Another concern centers on whether James will be able to make the adjustment from Oregon's fast-paced offense to a more standard NFL offense. James admitted that the slower pace of the NFL might be weird for him at first.
"I'm so used to running plays in just about a second that anytime we have to huddle or go really slow is probably going to feel awkward for me for a little bit," James said.
Although Oregon may have run an unusual offense, the Ducks faced plenty of elite defenses, a fact that James believes left him well-prepared for the NFL.
"There's a lot of great defenses around the country in college football," James said. "Somebody is going to have your number. At the end of the day, someone is always going to be bigger; someone is always going to be stronger. Everything is not going to go your way all the time, but you got to do your part. That means that if they're keying on you, you got to get hit a couple of times or pass-block the whole game. It is what it is. You can win games and contribute without just getting the ball the whole game."
Against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last season, James strutted his stuff to the tune of 159 yards on 25 carries. That made up for a somewhat disappointing performance against Auburn in the 2010 BCS national championship game. James said that it's important to learn what's it like to struggle against an elite defense before entering the NFL.
"With the NFL, you're going to be going against the best defenses every week," James said. "Everybody was the star of their high school or college team, so you're going to see that every week."
An occasional special-teams weapon at Oregon, James said he would be open to rejoining a special-teams unit. In fact, he seemed open to practically anything on Friday.
"I feel like i'm an every-down back," James said. "I feel like I can do anything, I can be an all-around back. If you got to take him out on third down, I can run the ball. I can probably throw the ball, too. I can play all special teams. If they ask me to kick the field goal, I can probably do that, too."
It's hard to find a running back who put up better numbers in college than James did. As part of Oregon's record-setting attack, James rushed for 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior season, his third straight campaign of at least 1,500 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
With such a staunch résumé, James knows that as different as he appears to most, he's not all that far away from being an NFL running back.
"It'll be just fine," James said. "Those players that played on Saturdays, they played on Fridays. They progress and they start playing on Saturdays; they're going to play on Sundays. It's the same thing. You just got to go out there and compete. Those are the same guys. They got a little bigger; I'm going to get a little bigger. They got a little faster; I'm going to get a little faster."