American Football Database
Jesse Craig James
Date of birth: (1961-01-02) January 2, 1961 (age 61)
Place of birth: Jacksonville, Texas, U.S.
Career information
Position(s): RB
College: Southern Methodist
NFL Draft: 1983 / Round: 7 / Pick 187
 As player:
Washington Federals (USFL)
New England Patriots
Career highlights and awards
Pro Bowls: 1986
Playing stats at

Jesse Craig James (born January 2, 1961) is a former American sports commentator on the ABC and ESPN television networks.

Prior to becoming a sportscaster, James was a professional football player for the New England Patriots of the National Football League and for the Washington Federals of the United States Football League. He ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate in Texas in 2012,[1] but was defeated in the first round of the Republican primary.[2]


James attended Stratford High School in Houston, Texas, where he was a star on Stratford's 1978 Texas class 4A championship football team, setting the single-season Texas 4A rushing record with 2,411 yards gained in 15 games. James, a running back, also attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In the 1980 Holiday Bowl (known as the Miracle Bowl), James' offensive production of 225 rushing yards and 9.9 yards/carry were not enough as SMU lost the Holiday Bowl while he set records that stood for 13 and 15 years respectively.[3] In 1982, he scored on a 96-yard touchdown reception to set a new record as the longest scoring play in Southwest Conference history.[4]

After his senior season in 1982, James was drafted by the Washington Federals of the USFL with the 4th overall pick in the spring league's inaugural draft. James subsequently signed with the Federals a week after being drafted.

His first pro season in Washington saw James and the Feds struggle to a 4–14 record. He rushed for 823 yards and 4 TDs in 14 games (starting 14). He also caught 40 passes out of the backfield that season.

The following year, 1984, James suffered a knee injury on Sunday, March 4, in a game at RFK against the Philadelphia Stars. He was placed on injured reserve later that week. He was subsequently released by the cash-strapped Federals a month later, allowing him to join the Patriots for their training camp in August that year.

According to James, speaking on an ESPN broadcast of the Florida State Seminoles vs. North Carolina Tar Heels, the first player to tackle him in the NFL was Lawrence Taylor.

In the 1985–86 season, James rushed for 1,227 yards, becoming the last white player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, until Peyton Hillis reached that mark in 2010.[5] In week 2 against the Chicago Bears he caught a 90-yard touchdown pass from Tony Eason which was the longest touchdown from scrimmage in Patriots history at the time. He was a major factor in the Patriots' 31–14 upset win over the Miami Dolphins in the AFC title game, rushing for a career postseason high of 105 yards. However, he was dominated by the Chicago Bears' defense in Super Bowl XX, which held him to only 1 yard on 5 carries.

James retired from the NFL after the 1988 season, having rushed for 2,469 yards and eleven touchdowns in his five seasons with the Patriots. He also had 819 yards receiving and two touchdown catches.

Radio and television

After his retirement from playing in 1989, James went on to become a radio analyst for SMU college football games and then the sports anchor for KDFW-TV. During this time, he also appeared on ESPN as a studio analyst on the College GameDay and College Football Scoreboard programs. Craig worked the Game Day Desk with Lee Corso and would pick up the nickname Mustang Breath from Lee in the 'Not So Fast' segment on their pick 'em segment. In 1996, he joined CBS where he served as a studio analyst on their College Football Today as well as The NFL Today programs before becoming a game analyst on NFL on CBS with Kevin Harlan. During his CBS stint, he served as a reporter during the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship as well as the 1998 Winter Olympics. In 2003, James moved to ABC. He served as a studio analyst on their college football coverage through the 2008 season. He also appears as an analyst on ESPN's Thursday night package as well as other college football programs such as College Football Live. He then teamed with Mike Patrick and sideline reporter Heather Cox as game analyst for the 2009 season, working ESPN on ABC Saturday afternoon broadcasts, while still working the Thursday night package. On December 19, 2011, James announced that he was leaving ESPN to run for the United States Senate.[6]

James also operates his own broadcasting school, eponymously called the Craig James School of Broadcasting.

James said in 1998 that the Wisconsin Badgers were "the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl." Wisconsin went on to defeat #6 UCLA 38–31 in the 1999 Rose Bowl. Afterward, Badger coach Barry Alvarez fired back, "Well, I know we're at least the second worst."[7][8]

James is a voter in the AP college football poll, and has received some attention and criticism for his reported tendency to give low votes to teams from outside the Automatic Qualifying conferences, such as Boise State and TCU.[9][10]


He lives in Celina, Texas, with his wife Marilyn and their four children. His brother Chris was a Major League Baseball player from 1986 through 1995.

Texas Tech controversy

James' son, Adam, was the center of the controversy that resulted in Texas Tech suspending, and later firing, head football coach Mike Leach shortly before the 2010 Alamo Bowl. Leach allegedly had Adam twice stand in a shed for two hours during practice. In light of the allegations, ESPN removed James from announcing the Alamo Bowl, replacing him with Bob Davie.[11][12][13][14][15] In a lawsuit filed by Leach against Texas Tech, he alleges that Adam "voluntarily placed himself into the electrical closet and apparently took pictures with his phone camera." In response, James stated, "Since the James family is not a party to the lawsuit, we deem it inappropriate to discuss it."[16]

Leach later filed suit against James and others for defamation related to the publicity surrounding this incident.[17]


In an interview with WFAA-TV in Dallas, James revealed that he was interested in getting involved in politics as a member of the Republican Party. James is a self-described conservative and states that government intervention in business and health care are his main concerns. He has founded a political group called Texans for a Better America.[18]

Run for U.S. Senate

On December 19, 2011, James announced he would run for the United States Senate as a Republican in 2012 for the seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison.[1] He finished a distant fourth with about 4% of the vote.[2] Public Policy Polling found during the race that "as Craig James has become better known he's just gotten more and more unpopular."[19]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Vertuno, Jim (December 19, 2011). "College football analyst Craig James leaves ESPN to run as a Republican for US Senate in Texas". Associated Press. Washington Post.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "2012 Republican Party Primary election results - Texas Secretary of State website". Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  3. "Holiday Bowl individual rushing records". Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Archived from the original on 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2006-01-05.
  4. "No. 82 in the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History". SMU Athletics. Retrieved 2006-01-05.
  5. Hill, Jemele (September 26, 2008). "Whatever happened to the white tailback?". Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  6. "College Football Analyst Craig James Leaves ESPN to Run for Senate". Fox News (FOX News Network, LLC.). December 19, 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  7. Howard-cooper, Scott (January 2, 1999). "After Dayne Runs Them Over, They Beat Themselves Up - UCLA Conquered and Divided After Rose Bowl Defeat". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  8. Gurnick, Ken (January 2, 1999). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL: ROSE BOWL; Badgers Prove Doubters Wrong". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  9. "AP on Craig James' controversial Boise State vote: 'We have no reason to step in'". Idaho Statesman, November 29, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
  10. "Craig James Is Not A Boise State Fan". The Big Lead, November 29, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
  11. Friedman, Emily (29 December 2009). "Coach Mike Leach, Suspended After Claims of Abuse, Wants to Play in Bowl". ABC News. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  12. Schad, Joe (2009-12-28). "Leach suspended after player complaint". Retrieved 2009-12-28.
  13. "Texas Tech fires Leach". 2009-12-30. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
  14. Evans, Thayer; Thamel, Pete (2009-12-39). "Texas Tech Fires Coach Mike Leach". New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  15. Smith, Erick (December 28, 2009). "Texas Tech suspends Mike Leach after player complains about treatment". USA Today. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  16. "Suit alleges phone calls by James' father". ESPN. January 15, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  17. Markus, Don (January 1, 2011). "Leach would bring much promise but also reason for pause". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  18.[dead link]
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Tony Collins
New England Patriots leading rusher
Succeeded by
Tony Collins