clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

FSU’s Kelly: Proud James made most out of his injury "as he possibly could"

Coach. Mentor. Admirer.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Florida State Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When Derwin James plays his first snap in almost a year against Alabama on Sept. 2 in Atlanta, defensive coordinator Charles Kelly might just get a lump in his chest.

One that's filled with pride.

Kelly didn't hold back when given the chance to talk about Florida State's superstar defensive back, saying the season-ending knee injury James suffered last season in Week 2 against Charleston Southern not only changed James' perspective on life and football, it might've just made him a better all-around player.

And Kelly, for one, can't wait for America to see Derwin James 2.0.

(When the injury happened), the biggest thing for Derwin, the first thing he told me was: 'Coach, you always say: Don't worry about the things you can't control.' But for a week or two (after the injury) it was tough," Kelly said. "I think all of us - not only Derwin - a lotta times we don't realize something can be gone line that. That hit him, you know, that this could end this quickly.

"But what I did see was his ability to come back and study the game. On the sidelines, he's very good with his teammates. Encouraging. I think from a scheme standpoint, he understand the situations in the game on first, second and third down. He made the most out of it as he possibly could."

James enters the season as the No. 1 rated player in college football by ESPN, despite not having played a down of football since Sept. 10, 2016.

And he's just fine with that.

"It put a bigger target on my back," James said of the No. 1 billing. "But I don't just want to be No. 1 in preseason, I want to be No. 1 at the end of the season too."

And hearing that didn't surprise Kelly one bit.

When I talk about Derwin, I talk about him as a person," Kelly said. "Not only on the field, but everything he does he wants to be the very best at it. Very good in the classroom. He's a very smart young man. He's driven. Whatever he does, he wants to be the very best. So, I think when guys are consistent like that? When you combine that kind of work ethic - because there's no doubt he's talented; anybody can see that -- when you combine (all those factors) it gives him a chance to be what I call an elite player. But you have to do it, every game, every practice. And that's the one thing he really does. He really works on his craft.

Kelly even went so far as to compare James to the Seminoles' most famous defensive back in history: Deion Sanders.

"Jimbo says this all this time: 'You are never truly a great player unless you can effect your teammates in a positive way,' " Kelly said. "And you take a player like Derwin with great athleticism and he becomes the hardest worker, and his teammates say, 'If he's doing that, I'm doing that.'

"Go talk to (former Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey) Andrews. He'll tell you: Deion was the hardest worker he's ever coached."