Redshirt junior wide receiver Sam James is the latest Mountaineer to be featured in the Big 12 Champions for Life campaign.
The Big 12 released this video of James Thursday on social media. In the video, James discusses his identity as a football player, and how college athletics can open doors away from the field.
James wants to use his platform as a student-athlete to encourage other athletes and young people to prioritize their mental health.
“There’s a stigma, especially around male athletes, that you shouldn’t go get help or open up about certain things that you’re going through. But everybody needs someone to talk to. Everybody’s going through something,” James said. “You need to be able to open up about those things so you can get the right help, so you don’t get in the dark place where we see some of these athletes are today.”
Fourth-year head coach Neal Brown has applauded James for his growth on and off the field.
“I’ve watched Sam transition into really becoming a man and somebody that is very confident in his ability to articulate his thoughts and what he wants to say,” Brown said. “That’s the thing about coaching. You know, everybody talks about wins and losses, and that matters. That’s what we signed up for. But when you talk about personal growth, and seeing young people grow and be able to go out and achieve great things beyond the football field, Sam James is one of those guys.”
A native of Richmond Hill, Georgia, James is one of the first in his family to earn a college degree. He credits his mother, Shirleyann, for inspiring him to achieve his dreams.
James was chosen as a Big 12 Champion for Life over the summer and was one of several WVU representatives at Big 12 Football Media Days in July.
Big 12 Champions for Life recognizes the student-athletes who embody the defining characteristics of a champion: leadership, perseverance, community service and discipline. The campaign provides a platform for athletes to stand up for their beliefs and inspire their teammates and communities.
Fans can watch more about James and his Big 12 Champions for Life counterparts on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.