By Will Brown, Florida Times-Union
One of the most electrifying players to put on pads for the orange and blue found out he will receive one of the University of Florida’s highest honors.
He will have company on a great day in Gainesville.
Brandon James will be inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame this year. Two of his fellow inductees this fall are his college classmates, linebacker Brandon Spikes and 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow from Nease.
Tebow, currently in the Mets’ minor league system, won the 2007 Heisman Trophy, was a finalist on two other occasions and set 28 Gators records. Spikes, twice an All-American selection, recorded more than 300 tackles and returned four interceptions for touchdowns.
The news was sweet for James, a 2006 St. Augustine graduate, who appeared in 50 games for the Gators and helped the team win national championships in 2006 and 2008.
“Being a 5-7 kid from St. Augustine, I signed that scholarship thinking I was going there to compete,” James said. “I knew there were a lot of good athletes signing with my class. I was trying to attempt to play ball in the SEC. In no way, shape or form was I thinking about a Hall of Fame career some day.”
James averaged 24.3 yards on kickoff return for his career, 11.7 yards per punt return ran for two rushing touchdowns and caught 43 passes and a pair of touchdowns in the receiving game.
His four punt return touchdowns are tied for the school record with Jacquez Green.
By the time he finished, James owned four Southeastern Conference and 11 Florida records in special teams. He was an All-American in 2008 who was also named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year that fall.
“I shed a few tears about it,” James said. “You go through a lot in your career and sometimes you second guess yourself. To go into the Hall of Fame with the two guys I’m going in with is a humbling experience.”
James is the second St. Augustine High football alumnus to be inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame. Charles “Hilly” LaPradd was an All-American defensive end for the Gators in the early 1950s.
James, now 32, lives in St. Augustine and is the running backs coach at St. Augustine High School. He said his life in football is a reminder to athletes in West Augustine, St. Augustine and St. Johns County that they are just as capable as he was if they are willing to commit to the hard work and attacking things the right way.
“It’s an honor that I can’t even put into words,” James said. “It’s a humbling feeling. I’m just a small kid from St. Augustine. Coach (Joey) Wiles had to call (Urban Meyer) over and over again to get him to give me a chance to get a scholarship.”