At age 3, Devan James dressed for Halloween in his favorite outfit: a football uniform and a plastic helmet. Seventeen years later, he's still wearing football gear and scaring the heck out of Morgan State's opponents.
James, a junior running back, has rushed for 947 yards and could break the Bears' single-season rushing record of 1,402 yards set last year by Chad Simpson, now with the Indianapolis Colts). Morgan (4-3) has five games left and hosts Delaware State at homecoming on Saturday at 1.
Last week, James gained 219 yards - a career high - and scored twice in Morgan's 31-30 double-overtime victory over Howard.
"Devan came into his own that game," said Earl Davis, Morgan's running backs coach. "He stopped being tentative and just started seeing things. With that sneaky speed and those fast-twitch muscles, he can be one of the best we've had."
James, from Pompano Beach, Fla., chose Morgan over Auburn when the latter wanted him to play defense.
"Running to daylight, with everyone trying to get me, is an indescribable feeling," he said. "I have the ability to make people miss me. My goal, since I was 3, is to do it in the pros."
Could James follow Simpson to the NFL?
"His best football is ahead of him," coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "Devan runs by feel. He has a natural presence out there that lets him make his cuts without looking side to side. That's something you can't teach; the coach above gives you that ability."
Frustrated teams have tried to stop James by grabbing his hair, which cascades down his back, past his helmet. He hasn't cut his locks since sophomore year in high school.
"North Carolina Central pulled my hair during a run and I went straight to the ground," he said. "My dad wants me to cut it so that doesn't happen."
James' appearance is hardly an issue, coaches said.
"Some guys have hair going in a hundred different directions, which gets on my nerves," Davis said. "Devan keeps his hair neat. As he's running, you can see his hair waving down the back. It makes him look even faster than he is."
Blood is thicker than soccer
Carissa Youker is the top scorer for Navy's playoff-bound soccer team. Her father, Jim, is a retired Army colonel who attends her games.
Friday night, when Navy plays at West Point, for whom will Jim Youker be rooting?
"I'll be there in the stands with a goat on my shirt," he said.
Blood trumps an Army hitch, said Youker, of Annapolis.
"I've got to [cheer] Navy. I mean, jeez, they're paying for my daughter's education - and they have an outstanding team," he said.
Navy is 12-3-2; Army, 11-4. Neither team has surrendered a goal in Patriot League play. The Mids also blanked Army each of the past two years.
"We try and treat this like any other game, but it's very important that we win the Army contest," Navy coach Carin Gabarra said.
The Mids, who average just two goals a game, wouldn't be thriving if not for Youker, a sophomore who attended Winston Churchill. Of her seven goals, five have been game-winners.
"We will be pumped to play," said Youker, who'll scan the stands during the game to check out her father's attire.
Not to worry, Jim Youker said.
"I had 30 years of loyalty to Army sports," he said. "Now it's the Navy's turn."
Battle of the CAC titans
St. Mary's College hosts Salisbury on Friday in volleyball (4 p.m.) in a showdown of undefeated Capital Athletic Conference powers. St. Mary's (21-4) is out to avenge a string of losses to Salisbury (28-1).
The Sea Gulls are the only CAC team that St. Mary's coach Morris Davis hasn't beaten in five years.
"We haven't mentioned that at practice yet," Davis said.
But he will.