NEW YORK – It was only fitting that Charles James became the first player from Charleston Southern to play in an NFL regular season game.
The former Buccaneer played every special teams snap for the New York Giants on Sunday in a 36-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. James was a two-time FCS All-American at CSU after walking onto the Bucs' team, eventually earning a scholarship and leaving as the school's record-holder in career interceptions.
Now, playing on Sundays, James continues his own Cinderella story while making CSU history along the way.
"It has all been one big blessing, it's still surreal," James said on Monday. "I'm still at that point where I'm having to tell myself 'this is really happening.' All of the things I've been through to get to this point. Having to walk-on at CSU, the car wreck (which almost cost James his life early in college), getting cut, practice squad. You can really tell that God is working in my life. I'm staying happy with the little things."
James found out on Friday he would be making his NFL debut on Sunday. Injuries opened the door, but hard work has kept James on the verge of earning a roster spot after signing onto the Giants' practice squad at the end of training camp. The Jacksonville, Fla. native tried not to get caught in the moment on Sunday, but he knew he had to relish the experience at least a little bit.
"I wasn't nervous," James said. "I wanted to see what an NFL regular season game was like. Obviously, I had to say to myself "I'm really out here, playing on a Sunday.' I did take a moment to tell Mike Vick he was one of my favorite players growing up. Once the game started, I was completely focused, and had to be."
James said he won't soon forget his first career NFL regular-season snap.
"Jammer on punt return, that was my first snap," James recalled. "The game was so much faster and up-tempo, nothing like the preseason. It felt good to fly around and get my feet wet in my first game."
James also has not forgotten his roots, openly showing his excitement for his former teammates and their perfect start.
"Coach (Jamey) Chadwell has been phenomenal," James said. "He is changing the mindset and culture of the program and continuing to turn it in the right direction. I can promise you, no one in the country thought they'd be 6-0."
James won't have to wait long to play his second NFL game. The Giants visit the Bears on Thursday night in Chicago and, now that he is on the active roster, James' focus is on expanding his role.
"That game and my debut is over," James said. "I'm on the active roster now. My only concern is game prep for Thursday night for the Bears. I need to focus on practice, going out, and executing."