Dallas In his first season, former Kansas coach Turner Gill told each of his freshmen that if they were uncomfortable, he would make sure they wouldn’t have to do interviews during their first year.
Only one player took him up on his offer: running back James Sims.
The same Sims that comfortably sat at an elevated table answering questions for two hours during Monday’s Big 12 media days at the Omni Hotel.
“I’ve come a long way — coming from not talking to anyone to talking to everyone to even being on this stage right now,” Sims said. “It’s a good feeling to know that you can overcome anything if you put your mind to it.”
Three years ago, Sims — he didn’t have much media coverage other than phone interviews in high school — said it always felt like cameras and reporters kept creeping closer to him. That caused anxiety, as did the feeling that he might not say the right things.
After a few interviews early his freshman year, he sat out the rest of the year, working on his public speaking by talking into a video camera then later watching himself on film.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot, and I’m way more comfortable now than what I have been before,” Sims said. “It’s a good thing.”
As far as football goes, Sims isn’t lacking motivation.
After tying for the league lead with 112.6 rushing yards per game a year ago, Sims was not selected as one of the Big 12’s two preseason all-conference selections by regional reporters.
Sims admits he was surprised by the snub.
“I guess this really is off wins and losses,” Sims said. “ ... If you don’t get wins, it really doesn’t mean anything.”
The 6-foot, 202-pound senior also has used newspaper articles to stay focused in the offseason. He’s placed a few stories just to the side of his bed, with some talking about how KU is picked to finish last in the conference and others praising him for his season last year.
Some articles are meant to fire him up while others serve as a reminder to avoid complacency.
“I look at it day by day as, ‘This wasn’t luck for me to get here where I am. It took hard work,’” Sims said. “To get better than what I was, I’m going to have to push myself even harder.”