ORONO, Maine — There is a disarming calm about Darlos James.
To watch him throwing his body around on Saturday afternoons, one might assume he is a rambunctious, high-strung young man.
Instead, James exudes a quiet confidence and humility that have helped him succeed on the football field at the University of Maine.
The senior from Mount Vernon, N.Y., continues his quest for excellence as the Black Bears begin the home stretch of the 2012 season with Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Colonial Athletic Association game at William & Mary.
UMaine takes a 2-5 record (1-3 CAA) into the contest in Williamsburg, Va.
“Defensively, we’re just looking to get better,” said James, who is a second-year starter at cornerback. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes twice. We want to be a great defense coming toward the end of the season.”
James has been one of the cornerstones of the unit for the last two seasons. This fall, he has made 26 tackles with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
He is the “boundary” corner, which means he often is lined up to provide support in trying to stop the run.
“He’s a guy who’s mentally tuned in to what we should be doing and need to be doing,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “He’s a guy you can trust to be in the right place at the right time and do the things you’ve coached him to do.”
James has played in 41 games since he was pressed into duty as a true freshman in 2009. He admitted the biggest challenge was learning the Black Bears’ defensive schemes and playing within the system.
He had a breakout junior season in 2011, when he racked up 48 tackles and made four interceptions.
“The emergence of Darlos and Kendall [James, no relation] last year was one of the key reasons for our success,” Cosgrove said of the 9-4 UMaine team that reached the Football Championship Subdivision national quarterfinals.
Darlos James fits the mold of many UMaine cornerbacks in recent years. At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, he often has to take on receivers and running backs who have a considerable size advantage.
He doesn’t view himself as being at a disadvantage.
“I take pride in that, that I’m a smaller guy, but look what I can do against this big guy,” James said. “It makes us want to go out and play harder.”
James enjoys the dynamic that often confronts a cornerback, which is getting matched up against a receiver in man-to-man coverage.
“I like being in the pressure situation, just me and the guy one-on-one,” James said. “It’s a challenge.”
“He may be one of our toughest kids on the edge,” Cosgrove said. “He’ll come up and hit you. He’s fearless.”
Cosgrove marvels not only at how James approaches the game, but how he handles himself in other areas of the student-athlete experience.
“He’s shy in a lot of ways, but he’s a phenomenal young man,” Cosgrove said. “He’s gotten the most out of his ability here. He’s one of our hardest-working, most dedicated guys. I enjoy his smile, his company, his zest for football.”
James was recruited by UMaine out of Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y. There, he was a two-time, all-league choice and a two-year captain.
Making the transition from public school to a Catholic high school gave him new insights and helped prepare him for life at UMaine.
James said he has benefitted from a nurturing relationship with his father, Darlos Sr., who served as his mentor and recruiting coordinator throughout the process. He also was a single parent for a long period of time.
“My dad’s a football guy. He doesn’t believe in any other sport but football,” Darlos Jr. said. “We have a great relationship.”
James admitted he had to do some extra work during high school to elevate his grades after a lackluster freshman year. He attended summer school before his senior year to get himself eligible for NCAA competition.
James is majoring in business administration with a concentration in management. He plans to take what he has learned in the classroom and join his dad in a fledgling business venture.
Darlos Sr. has started Dmaxx Sports ( dmaxxsports.com), an athletic sportswear company. It specializes in custom football uniforms featuring unique designs and colors.
The company also sells many other items that complement the uniform.
“He started it and I plan, when I graduate, on going into it with him,” James said. “We’re already planning some stuff together.”
For the next three weeks, James is concentrating his efforts on finishing his football career.
“I feel like I just got here yesterday,” he said. “This season’s flying.”