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Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Derwin James first in his class

By Corey Long
ESPN RecruitingNation

AUBURNDALE, Fla. -- The biggest story from FSU's junior day last weekend wasn't the three commitments from Class of 2013 members or Orange Park (Fla.) defensive lineman De'Asian Richardson committing and, three hours later, decommitting from the Seminoles.

No, the buzz was about the commitment from Derwin James, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound athlete who plays free safety for Auburndale (Fla.) High.

He's also a freshman -- a Class of 2015 prospect.

Derwin James
Derwin James may be a freshman, but he doesn't play like one.
"I never expected it, to be honest," James said. "I was invited, and I was looking forward to hanging out with Karlos and Vince Williams because they are my cousins.

"FSU has always been my favorite school, my dream school, and I was figuring I could check out some of the campus and the facilities, but I never thought I would get an offer."

James said shortly after he arrived on campus, he was in the coaches' office talking with head coach Jimbo Fisher and assistants Mark Stoops and Odell Haggins.

"They had a chance to look at my film and wanted to see me in person," James said. "I was overwhelmed by the whole situation. It was like a dream."

Auburndale head coach Kenneth Grantham wasn't expecting a commitment either and found out about it from another coach.

"I knew he was going up there, and Coach Haggins had been in contact with me about him," Grantham said. "But I got a call from a coach at Madison County on Saturday evening and he said, 'Your free safety committed to Florida State' and I'm wondering if he had the wrong kid or if there was one of my seniors they were looking at. It was definitely a surprise to me."

Still, Grantham says not to let age fool you because James has quickly proved to be worthy of the early accolades.

"He came right out the gate ready to play for us, and he started every game as a freshman at free safety," Grantham said. "You see the work ethic and the things he does in the weight room that the upperclassmen can't touch yet."

James is also blessed with quite a strong lineage of football in the area. His father, Blue James, was a standout at nearby Haines City in the early '90s. Along with the Williams brothers, who play for FSU, Derwin James is also related to Miami running back Mike James.

It's no surprise that Mike James, his cousin, was a little disappointed in Derwin's decision.

"Yeah, he texted me over the weekend and was like 'Dang man, why are you going there?'" Derwin said. "But he knows FSU is my school."

Grantham says that FSU is recruiting James as an athlete because it's hard to project where he'll be in three years as he continues to develop physically.

"Well, he was around 6-foot-1 during the season, and now he's closer to 6-foot-3," Grantham said. "He's grown almost 2 inches since the end of the season so he could be a big free safety or grow into a 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive end.

"The whole spectrum is available for him."

Regardless of where James ends up on the field, Grantham says he's looking forward to coaching the freshman for the next three seasons.

"He's got so much good football ahead of him, and he's just scratching the surface of where he's going to be," Grantham added. "He's a tremendous athlete that plays basketball and runs track as well.

"We're just going to continue to coach him up and help develop him as a person and a player."

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.