Editor’s Note: Tyshaun James’ football journey this fall will be documented through a series of stories.
By Paul Augeri
Almost two years in the making, Tyshaun James’ final football season at Central Connecticut is now just hours away from kicking off.
It’s been an excruciating wait for the fifth-year senior wide receiver, who will attempt to bookend a 2019 All-Northeast Conference body of work with something as good or better.
In between? He’s endured shoulder surgery, stayed away from the transfer portal in order to finish business with his brotherhood of Blue Devils, all while fulfilling the requirements toward degrees in economics and management.
Now that Friday night’s game against Southern Connecticut at Arute Field (6pm) is here, what’s on his mind?
“I just hope I play some football right,” the Middletown native said this week. “I want to just go out there and get into a groove. We’ve practiced hard as a team (since August 4). It’s just going to be good to finally put everything all together to see the final product. Well, not the final product, because it’s just our first game, but as long as guys are going at it 100 percent and doing what we have to do, the odds are in our favor.”
James, who graduates in December, has the highest GPA among Central’s senior players. He is passing the time until graduation by taking courses in communication, art and geography.
“There are no exams,” he said, a hint of relief in his voice. “I’ll just play football and do what I gotta do.”
This season, James was named as a first-time captain and he relishes the responsibility, but it really hasn’t changed how he treats his teammates. He’s always had a penchant for helping younger players, just like the veterans who brought him along when he first joined the program.
“I’m just ready to lead the team,” said James, who joined linebacker Tre Jones and offensive lineman J’Von Brown on the preseason Northeast Conference first team. “Being a captain is a different role for me. I’ve felt the guys always looked at me as a leader or to make plays, but now they’re looking to me in any situation.”
After a 2019 season of 978 receiving yards, a 20.3 yards-per-catch average and an NEC-best 14 TDs (five rushing), the 6-foot-3, 217-pound James has popped up on several preseason lists of the top receivers in the Football Championship Subdivision. Noontime included him on its New England Preseason D-1 Offense alongside three other receivers: Boston College’s Zay Flowers, UConn’s Cameron Ross and Maine’s Andre Miller.
“I’ll just let my senior season speak for itself,” James said. “Preseason awards don’t win you any games, they don’t win me anything, and at the end of the day it’s not winning us any games. If it was up to me our whole starting offense and defense would be (recognized).”
“I’ll just focus on the game. My dad keeps me level-headed. Sometimes we’ll see a list of All-Americans and I’m not on it, and he’ll say, ‘Just show them why you should be up there.’ But I have nothing to prove to anyone else. I’m my toughest critic at all times and I’ve got a lot stored in the tank.”
James spent a portion of the summer in Atlanta, where he worked out at Sideline Hustle with his cousin, Middletown High and Wesleyan product Dario Highsmith, and receivers coach/Sideline CEO Drew Lieberman.
Because his dreams begin and end with the letters N, F and L, and he plays at a small school, and he came out of a high school that hasn’t produced his caliber of talent in at least 50 years, James says “day in and day I feel like I have something to prove.”
“There is always something I can do better,” he said. “I know I’m not there yet, I’m nowhere close to being there. I’m still a young man learning every day and learning as a receiver. Football is everything to me, but there are things beyond football that are important to me. My main goal is to play in the NFL and play multiple seasons in the NFL. Once I do that, and can retire and family all good, OK, then I’ll say I made it. But I haven’t done anything special yet.”