‘Pooh Bear’ passion: Chargers’ Derwin James ready after two injury-shortened seasons

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COSTA MESA, Calif. — You’d by no means realize it by taking a look at Los Angeles Chargers security Derwin James Jr.’s chiseled, ripped physique, however when he was a child he used to steal his cousin’s bottle to get the additional formulation. He bought to be so pudgy that his mother began calling him “Pooh Bear” — and nonetheless calls him that to this present day.

“After I first had him,” his mom, Shanita Russell, informed Warchant — Florida State’s Rivals web site — in 2016, “he had a head full or curly hair … after which he was so plump he appeared like a bit bear to me.”

What you see now if you take a look at James is an imposing, 6-foot-2, 214-pound athlete able to doing absolutely anything on a soccer area. It’s also possible to see exhausting work James has put in since he was the No. 17 total draft decide by the Chargers in 2018. That work resulted in James incomes first-team All-Professional standing as a rookie and might be key to him rising once more after accidents have hampered him the final two seasons.

James has spent a lot of the previous two years within the coach’s room after struggling accidents to his foot in 2019 and tearing his meniscus previous to final season. The Jones fracture in his foot (which occurred when a screw from a earlier surgical procedure in school was bent) precipitated him to overlook 11 video games in 2019, whereas he missed all of final season with the torn meniscus.

Shedding James, who had 34 tackles in 5 video games in 2019 after compiling 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions the season earlier than, was an enormous blow to the Chargers’ protection. James has labored exhausting to get again on the sector along with his teammates, who’re simply as desperate to have him again.

“His power, influence and clearly expertise on the sector will converse to themselves,” mentioned huge receiver Keenan Allen. “Hopefully he can keep on the market with us this 12 months.”

It is tough to underestimate the influence James has had when he was wholesome. He is one of many hardest, most athletic gamers on the market and has the flexibility to play nearly each place on protection, one thing the Chargers have already utilized.

When requested concerning the place he needed to play upon being drafted in 2018, James answered, “Wherever the ball is.”

He was the nation’s top-ranked security prospect when he got here out of Haines Metropolis (Florida) Excessive College in 2015 after transferring from Auburndale. As soon as the brand new man, James is probably the most skilled security on the Chargers’ roster and is the secondary’s longest-tenured starter. That has precipitated him to take extra a management function on the workforce.

“I inform Nas [third-year safety Nasir Adderley] we’ll want one another. This protection goes to want us and lots of people are leaning on us,” James mentioned. “We’re gonna should be the blokes that is going to make every little thing go … I really feel like we’ll make a variety of nice performs collectively.”

New head coach Brandon Staley will run the protection after coordinating the league’s No. 1 protection final 12 months with the Los Angeles Rams. Whereas James would not go into specifics on how he’d be utilized by Staley, he did say it will likely be much like how he was employed throughout his All-Professional rookie season, when he alternated between taking part in a conventional protection function to blitzing and taking part in nearer to the road of scrimmage.

“Coach Staley mentioned we’ll go towards one of the best in observe,” James mentioned. “Going towards Keenan Allen, Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, guys like that, it is solely going to assist us and put together us for video games each Sunday.”

Now if he can simply keep out of the coach’s room and off the formulation.

“I can do it,” he mentioned. “I am a soccer participant, so it should be enjoyable.”

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