Faith, family, football — the Jaylin James story

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Faith, family, football — the Jaylin James story

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ELIOT CLOUGH, Sports Editor

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Daurice Fountain, who led UNI in catches as well as receiving touchdowns in 2017, was taken by the Indianapolis Colts in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft, leaving the Panther football team for good. It was someone else’s turn to step up. Enter Jaylin James.

“Last year, Daurice was the definition of the guy, making plays here and there on every single drive that we had,” said James in an interview with Panther Sports Talk. “I kind of want to echo what he did and make plays when people rely on it. The main thing for me is just being able to make plays. When people aren’t expecting [players] to make plays, or when it comes down to the end of the game, when we need a big play and someone to rely on, I want to be that guy.”

One can sense the passion behind James’ statement.

James certainly possesses more than just that passion. He’s got the athleticism, speed and confidence to follow through.

Football must run through the veins and minds of the James family, considering James’ dad, Carlos, played cornerback for the University of Iowa in the late 80s and early 90s, receiving Big Ten All-Conference honors.

Carlos also spent some time with the Chicago Bears, being picked up as an undrafted free agent, and later going on to play arena football with the likes of Kurt Warner and the Iowa Barnstormers. Xavier, Jaylin’s brother also played wide receiver for the Panthers from 2013-2017.

“Football has always kind of been my go to,” said James. “I watched [my dad] when I was growing up [and] football has always been in my blood, I guess.”

While this may be the case, only three division one (DI) FCS schools brought scholarship offers to the table in James’ time of recruitment, including South Dakota State, the University of South Dakota and of course, UNI.

“When I actually came to UNI, I literally felt like it was my second family. It probably helped that my brother was already here, but it was like I could have moved in that day and been perfectly fine, just because I felt that close with everyone here. So, I think that family-type environment really pushed me to come here.” When thinking of individuals who made UNI home, James immediately thinks of his brother, as well as the aforementioned Fountain, someone who James holds in regard as one of his mentors. “I can’t even begin to describe how much Reece [Fountain] helped me,” said James. “Especially outside of football and in my faith.”

Fountain was the first person to introduce James to the UNI football team’s Bible study. “Growing up I had never been a true Christian or anything. I believed in God and went to church here and there growing up but didn’t go really at all in high school,” says James.

That story changed in James’ collegiate days. “I came here, and Reece was going to Bible studies. One day, he said something to me about it, and I kind of just blew it off,” said James. “Then I had another guy come up to me and tell me I should go, so I finally went. When Reece first introduced me to it, I was kind of light-hearted about it, I guess. I wasn’t really all in.”

Then James had a spiritual experience he couldn’t even describe. “Actually, just before Reece left, I had this weird thing happen. I didn’t see God or see Jesus or anything, but I had this weird feeling like I needed to give my life to Christ.”

James made sure to once again credit Fountain with his finding of Jesus. “Besides football, Reece has helped me a lot, ways people couldn’t even imagine.”

Strong, brother-like friendships like James has with Fountain weren’t the only thing that got James into the purple and gold of the Panthers.

“I don’t think the school is too big; it’s not too small. I can get away from some people if I have to,” James said with a smile.

“I think UNI is an awesome school.”