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James is runner-up in closest Mr. Football voting ever

He has carried the ball effectively at the varsity level for three years, but Wednesday marked the first time Demopolis junior DaMarcus James had the opportunity to stand in front of the best of his peers at the ASWA Mr. Football Banquet in Birmingham.

“It felt great,” James, the Class 5A Back of the Year and Mr. Football runner-up, said. “It was a new thing for me. I had to put the suit on and be in front of all the people taking pictures. It felt real grown up.”

“I think that’s great for anybody anytime you get to go do something like that and be recognized in front of the state like that,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey, who was in attendance at the banquet, said. “It was sure a proud moment for us.”

The award ultimately went to Cherokee County senior quarterback Coty Blanchard by a narrow point margin of 165-162 in what proved to be the closest Mr. Football vote in the award’s history.

“It didn’t surprise me a lick,” Causey said. “I’ll tell you what I was really proud of was his comment that he was where he was because of his teammates and because the team was so successful.”

James entered the day knowing he was a Super 12 player and did not really consider himself as having a chance at the state’s highest award.

“I didn’t think I had a chance,” James said. “When I got in (the banquet), I kind of got this feeling that I did good this year.”

That feeling that he did “good this year” could have originated from the fact that he ran for 2,529 yards and 19 touchdowns on 380 carries while helping tote the Demopolis Tigers to a Class 5A state championship. Along the way, James rushed for more than 200 yards in a game seven times, hauling the ball at least 40 times in a single game on three separate occasions.

“He had one of those years,” Causey said. “Really, I think he had it last year. If we play one or two more games, he ends up around 2,300 (yards in 2008).”

James ended his 2008 campaign in the third round of the state playoffs with more than 1,700 yards rushing despite missing a pair of games due to injury.

At the end of Wednesday the reserved James was more than satisfied with his experience, largely because he did not get too much extra attention.

“After I saw (Blanchard) win it and all the attention he got, I was like ‘well,’” James said.

While he did not have to face any extra attention Wednesday, James is aware that his production in 2009 means he will likely see loads of extra focus in 2010 when opposing defenses prepare to stop the once-unknown commodity.

“It’ll make me work a little bit harder knowing that they are coming for me,” James said. “I’ll try to create more opportunities for other players to step up and take more pressure off me.”