MADISON — Although Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale still make frequent appearances at Wisconsin football practices, they obviously won’t be suiting up for Wisconsin when next season rolls around. Instead, Chris James, a junior who transferred from Pitt last season, is making his case to take over the starting running back position.

James has something in him that all Badger fans can appreciate, and that’s how strong his will to win is. He wore a headband that was covered in the words “Just Win,” showing that his winning mentality is on the inside and outside. James preached about how the main thing for him is to win, and he hopes that that attitude spreads around the team.

The running back position battle is certainly heating up and gaining a lot of media attention, but James is trying not to let that get to him. 

“I really try not to let the outside noise get to me, because at the end of the day other people’s hype isn’t going to do anything for me,” said James. “Me and Brad[rick Shaw], we go out there every single day, we [are] just trying to work hard and try to put ourselves in the position to help the team win. That’s what really matters at the end of the day.”

He said that it doesn’t matter who is running or who is blocking, he just wants to win.

James also said for the team to be successful, they must all be in sync to their goals. He notes that it is important that everyone is on the same page, so everyone is working towards the same things to prevent one person from ruining the big picture. James said they are working towards winning their first game, then the BiG Ten Championship, then the Bowl game. He takes these goals seriously: “I just wake up and have my goals on the wall of my room, have them in my bathroom. That’s literally the first thing I see.”

Following Coach Chryst from Pitt and having to sit out last season, James can’t wait to get on the field and contribute, adding that “It’s really been a long time coming.” He said he’s excited to be a part of a group of guys that want and have the will to win, and won’t accept anything else.

James said that September 5th is going to come whether or not they are ready, and he knows that the work falls on the players since coaches can’t go and compete for them. “We’re going to have to prepare ourselves every single day,” he said. “Coach can’t workout for us. He can’t take those reps for us. It’s all up to us and the upperclassmen.”

The mental aspect of the game has been the most different part for James.

“When it comes to football it is mostly mental. And that’s something I’ve really learned here, [and] throughout my athletic career, you know this stuff is really mental. The physical part, obviously we work out and everything like that but you [have] to be mentally prepared every single day, because coaches can draw up X’s and O’s on the board but when you get out there it is completely different and guys are moving around.”

He said he tries to be there mentally every single day, doing whatever he can to help him get better. The ability to get into that mental mindset is something James excels in. 

“I just try to tell myself,  ‘Hey just relax, take a deep breath, you know what you can do. Don’t make it way bigger than it really is.’ That’s when you psych yourself out so I just really try to look at that stuff, take a breath and come out here and say it’s just football, it doesn’t matter who the guys are across from you, that football is still the same size. That’s what you’ve been doing for the last 7 or 8 years of your life and that hasn’t changed.”

Aside from winning, right now James is focused on sharpening the tools, taking advantage of opportunity, and trying to be a playmaker for the Badgers.

Other Notes from practice (4/4):

  • Sam Brodner got quite a few reps at practice yesterday. He could be a name to watch for as the running back battle drags on.
  • Defense had numerous picks yesterday. Garret Dooley had his eyes on the ball as it was tipped in the air, bobbled, and eventually landed his arms. Joe Ferguson ended practice with an unbelievable diving pick that earned him a lot of cheers and chest bumps from fellow defensive players.
  • Quintez Cephus was back home in Macon, Georgia, where his father was shot Monday, and unfortunately passed away Tuesday afternoon. Cephus was accompanied by wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore. We wish for nothing but the best for Cephus and his family.
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