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Greg Jones interviews ESPN’s Craig James
Sept. 13, 2003
I have been interviewed hundreds of times as a player at Florida State. This summer,
I interned in the FSU Sports Information Office. As part of that internship, I get to turn the tables and ask the media a few questions for a change. Each week I’ll interview a different writer or sportscaster. This week I spoke with ESPN’s Craig James.
What is your most memorable moment or game as a player?
Probably, the AFC championship game. It’s the last game ever played in the Orange
Bowl. We won the game and it gave us a chance to play in the Super Bowl. I’ll never forget sitting on the sideline. I felt like a kid. I couldn’t believe it. I’d never been to a Super Bowl and all of a sudden I was going to get to go play in one. That reality kind of hit me all at one time. It was a great, great feeling.
Do you miss doing ESPN College Gameday?
College Gameday, when I was doing it with Lee (Corso) and Chris (Fowler), was the beginning of what has now been a 10-year run. It was awesome in that we saw that something we took on the road worked. It really allowed us to connect with all the fans at games. When I left it, it was because I had four kids and it was just killing my family because I was always gone. It was the right thing for me to do at that time. I’m glad to be back at ESPN now doing games. I like them both. They’re both fun to do.
If you didn’t play football and go into television, what do you think you would be doing right now?
There’s a part of me that really has always wanted to coach. I like coaching. I like being around the game – the strategy and everything. By being in broadcasting, I’m still able to stay connected a little bit to the game. I still study film and meet players – guys like you. So, coaching would be something that I think I would really enjoy doing.
What are some of the big differences between the college and pro game?
In college they may say “hey look your job is to turn the play back inside and here’s the technique were looking at.” In the NFL, they don’t care if you stand on your head, you make sure that play is turned. I think the fact that it is a job. You have to get prepared. It is your responsibility that your body is right and ready to play, mentally prepared, and you’ve got to do it every week. That’s the pressure of the NFL. It has the prestige and all that stuff, but to me, the biggest challenge is mentally because physically you got it, especially coming from a big program. Everybody can run. Everybody’s fast. I always say that in a great high school game maybe one or two players out of each side of the lineup are good. In a college game maybe five guys out of each side of the lineup are really good and when you get to the NFL, all 11 can play.
How would you describe your running style when you played and whom would you compare yourself to today?
Well, I was deceptive as a runner. I was about 220 pounds and most people did not expect that I could outrun them. I think I was more of a vision guy that would slash. Who would I compare myself to? I don’t know.
What are some of your favorite stadiums and cities to visit when you are on the road during the season?
I like to go to a game where there is tailgating and they are ready to go. The band is going to be ready to go. Many years ago when I was doing Gameday, we came here (Tallahassee) for a Miami-Florida State game – rocking. Alabama-Auburn – rocking. Going to Notre Dame to watch USC play Notre Dame was awesome. The Florida
State-Notre Dame game there many years ago and those environments, you can’t define it. You have to be there to see that.
Do you think your alma mater (SMU) will ever be able to return to the Top 25?
No. Not as long as they stay in the WAC. The thing SMU has got going for it is the city of Dallas. It’s an awesome city and it’s a beautiful city – a really good place, if they got into a conference that would give a kid a reason to go there. If you are a really good player, you don’t go play in the WAC. If they could get into the Big 12 then they have a chance. They could recruit a lot of good players. Dallas recruits itself, but they’ve got to go to a meaningful conference.
If you could change anything about college football what would it be?
Well today, I think I would find a way for players to get some kind of compensation.
I’m not saying pay the players, but players need to have the ability to live a life and I think that would eliminate a lot of the things that go on. Players should have benefits.
Players in college should be taken care of, especially the football guys because football is where the money is. I’m not saying give the guy $5,000 a month, but to some degree, there should be some type of lifestyle. I would also go to a playoff system.
You don’t like the BCS?
I feel like the college basketball NCAA tournament, man that’s awesome. You’re playing it. It’s do or die and you got a chance to be Cinderella. If you get in there (play-offs), it could be a great story. It would be a great story and I think fans would like to see that opposed to polls and computers.
Do you have any funny Lee Corso stories from when you were on Gameday?
One time we were roommates doing a Notre Dame game and it may have been a Florida State-Notre Dame game. Lee and I were at an Embassy Suites in a doubledecker room and there was a balcony. It was Lee’s room and I was down below. Lee puts on his pajamas and he gets a cigar that he smokes before he goes to bed and he takes his
Nyquil (ha, ha) and a bucket of chicken and he has this routine. Lee is just a crazy, comical guy and that’s the cleanest Lee Corso joke that I can tell you.
Do you ever think about going into coaching?
I probably would like to do the high school deal because in high school you impact a lot of kids. They’re still forming and you can steer them in the right direction.