Sims Makes History in Jayhawk Debut

Sims Makes History in Jayhawk Debut

Kansas football has featured some great freshman running backs in its history. Names like Tony Sands, June Henley, Kerwin Bell, and Clark Green all made their mark and had memorable Jayhawk careers.

But none of those former greats rushed for over 100 yards in their first game as a freshman.

That hadn't happened until Saturday, when Kansas true freshman James Sims exploded on the scene and rushed for 101 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries in KU's shocking 28-25 win over No. 15 Georgia Tech at Memorial Stadium. The 6-0, 206-pounder had 75 yards after halftime, running through, around, and even over defenders.

During one play, Sims showed his flair by hurdling over a defender on the left sideline.

"That's the first time I used that move before," Sims said. "It was kind of a quick little decision I had to make. There were two defenders on the ground so I just jumped over."

It was indeed a magical day for Sims and the Jayhawks, who rebounded in grand fashion just a week after KU's heartbreaking 6-3 loss to North Dakota State.

While senior running back Angus Quigley started the game, Sims entered the contest in the first quarter and never stopped running. So did the humble, polite freshman from Irving, Texas, with the high top haircut expect to gain 100 yards in his career debut?

"I was just going out there to play," Sims replied softly. "I wasn't trying to keep up with my stats. I was just  trying to help the team win.

‘"It's a great feeling right now," he added. "It's a blessing."

Sims' teammates certainly felt blessed to have him make such a big contribution and bring the running game to life.

"I knew he was going to produce," junior receiver Daymond Patterson said. "James is a heck of a running back. I've seen that once he came in (to Kansas). I ‘m just happy for him, proud for him because he's really put in a lot of work and he really stepped up. I'm glad he did what he did."

So is sophomore receiver Bradley McDougald.

"He is a great running back," McDougald said. "He reminds me of Toben (Opurum, KU's leading rusher as a freshman in 2009) last year. That's what the guys in the locker room were talking about. He came in with a lot of intensity. We believed in him and he believed in us, that was the biggest thing. He is a very tough runner."

Sims admitted he was "a little nervous" before the game, "but once I got my first hit, it all went away."

He credited the improved offensive line for his performance.

"They told me they were going to get the job done and that's what they did," Sims said.

Sims said he was extra motivated against Georgia Tech since he didn't play in the season-opening loss versus North Dakota State.

"I had to bounce back and work even harder because I knew my opportunity was going to come,"  Sims said. "I just took advantage of it and it paid off. ... I just want to build on it and get better every day."

After the game, Sims was mobbed by jubilant fans on the field.

He said they told him, "'Good running, just keep it up.'"

"It was a great feeling to know that the fans like me and like everything we're doing with the program," Sims said. "We just want to keep it going."

Sims should quickly become a fan favorite — for his play and his unique high top hairstyle. That drew attention to reporters after the victory.

"I wanted to keep it old school," Sims said. "I wanted to be a little different. I get laughed at, I get compliments. I just like it. It's my style."

He said he "grew it out last July and kept it growing. I got it to the length I want it and I just want to keep it like that."

KU coach Turner Gill should have no problem with that. After all, how you can argue with someone who made school history by rushing for 101 yards in his first game as a freshman.

Sims was also pleased how redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb performed in his first career start. Webb completed 18 of 29 passes for three touchdowns.

"We'll have a bright future," Sims said. "We'll just build from this game and continue to work harder and harder and get to the Big 12 Championship."

And who knows — if Sims keeps up his pace, he'll join Bell (1980) and Henley (1993) as just the third freshman in KU history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.

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