University of Saint Francis receiver Rocky James ready to put injury-riddled season behind

Rocky James celebrates a touchdown early last season. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Rocky James is helped off the field after suffering an ankle injury against Morningside in the NAIA playoffs last season. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Saint Francis receiver Rocky James, right, rises high for a catch during a game last season. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Saint Francis receiver Rocky James, left, celebrates a touchdown with assistant coach Grant Veith in a game last season. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)

Rocky James’ calendar says February. His mind says September.

The 2018 University of Saint Francis football season can’t get here soon enough for James, a dynamic wide receiver who started last year like a shooting star before injuries shot down his playing time over the second half of the NAIA championship season.

“I can’t wait, I’m thinking about it right now,” James said. “Who thinks about practice? I’m ready for practice. I can’t wait to get on the field. The DBs (defensive backs) have been hearing me every day, telling them they’re going to see something new.

“I’m anxious. I want the season to start right now. In my head, I’m ready to go.”

James, who will be a junior next fall, has every reason to be eager. He soared early and often last season, catching 39 passes for 649 yards and seven touchdowns in the Cougars’ first five wins. He’d have had 100 catches, 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns if he’d have kept that type of pace.

But James suffered a hyper-extended knee in the Cougars’ win over Concordia in Week 6, an injury that kept him sidelined for a month. He played two games when he returned, but suffered an ankle injury for another setback.

He spent more time in the training room than the end zone.

In limited time the second half of the season, James had 12 receptions for 102 yards and no touchdowns.

“The trainers kept telling me, ‘Rocky, you have to sit out,’ and I kept telling them I was good,” James said. “It was really frustrating because I saw my boys out there and I wanted to be a part of it, and I was left out of it and everything.”

Saint Francis went on to win its second-consecutive NAIA title, and James played in the title game, but had only one catch for no yards. He said he felt about 75 percent healthy by the end of the season.

Now, he’s back at 100 percent and attacking the weight room. Spring football will arrive soon, then summer workouts and finally the 2018 fall camp. None of this can come soon enough for James.

“I told the trainers I’m going to work hard this offseason so they don’t have to see me any more,” James said. “I’m pushing myself prepping and everything. I want to get up to at least 190 (pounds) before the season starts and see where it goes from there.”

In James’ absence, fellow sophomore Dan Ricksy stepped into the void at wide receiver, finishing with 73 receptions for 1,172 yards and 10 touchdowns. Outgoing senior Sean Boswell also caught 73 passes for 1,014. Despite missing so much time, James was third in receptions and yards and second in touchdown receptions.

Ricksy and cornerback Ryan Johnson – a high school teammate of James in Xenia, Ohio – were two of the most encouraging players while James was recovering, James said.

“Dan and I are good friends and our lockers are right next to each other,” James said. “I couldn’t stand coming to film session and watching games where I’m not playing and Dan kept saying, ‘We’re going to get you back (number) 6. He was looking out for me.”

James, Ricksy and the other Saint Francis receivers will have to adjust to a new quarterback with the graduation of three-year starter Nick Ferrer.

A number of candidates are up for the job including transfer Matt Crable, incoming freshman Heath Simmons and returning players Clay Senerius, Danny Naylor, Jake Hill and Jakob Coker.

“It’s kind of different because Nick was a really a gifted quarterback and he helped us out a lot,” James said. “We don’t know who’s going to be the quarterback, but whoever it is we have to rely on them and trust in them. There’s a lot of talent at the quarterback position, so we’ll see who’s the right guy for us.”

That’ll come in practice, which can’t come soon enough for James.

RECRUIT COMMITMENTS ARE IN

Saint Francis has more than 30 new players joining the roster next season, including four from the Fort Wayne area. Here’s a look at the incoming class:

2018 Saint Francis recruiting class

Name Ht Wt Pos School

Kalen Desrosiers 6-3 215 OLB North Side

Contrez Jordan 5-11 185 DB Bishop Luers

Jarret Schultz 6-3 170 WR Angola

Jack James 5-10 180 K/P Snider

Cortlind Mallory 6-1 245 DL Bishop Chatard

Michael Delaney 6-2 280 DL Westfield

Jackson Long 6-0 220 LB Lake Central

Zane Fisher 6-2 200 LB Olentangy (OH)

Kevyeon Evans 6-1 190 OLB Whitmer (OH)

Eli Weeks 6-0 180 DB Franklin Central

Michael Edwards 5-8 175 DB Central Catholic (OH)

Dylan Plant 6-1 210 DL Danville

Jay Goldsmith Jr. 5-9 160 CB Lawrence North

Nate Barney 6-3 260 OL Anthony Wayne (OH)

Daron Pierce 6-4 274 OL Evansville Central

Solomon Asiedu 6-3 260 OL St. John Jesuit (OH)

Tristin Woods 6-5 280 OL Bloomington North

Will Homan 5-8 180- RB- Fort Recovery (OH)

Matt Crable 6-4 215 QB Grand Valley State /Archbishop Moeller (OH)

Heath Simmons 6-4 215 QB Ohio County (Ky)

Ryan Poole 6-2 160 WR Lebanon

D-Andre Miles 6-1 170 WR Perry Meridian

Cole Harmon 5-10 175 WR Elida (OH)

Hunter Privett 5-11 230 WB Lawrenceburg

Ryan Hammond 5-11 220 WB Whiteland

Jay Segal 5-11 190 WR Lafayette Jefferson

Grant Schlagbaum 6-2 195 WR Crestview

Dequincy Davis 5-9 170 WR Brownsburg

Keith Allender 5-9 175 WR Pike

Damon Hunter 5-11 170 CB Columbus North

Zach Nihart 6-3 265 OL Edgerton (OH)

Camden Murrell 6-3 190 OLB Avon

Cameron Peterson 5-11 185 RB Pike

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