EUGENE, Ore. -- LaMichael James does not mince words when describing the period in February and early March when both he and the Oregon football team were in the news almost daily for entirely unwanted reasons.
"It really sucks," said the all-freshman running back. "Sometimes I even blame myself [for other players' arrests] because if I could have been here, I could have talked to my teammates. My teammates really look up to me. They expect me NOT to get in trouble. I try to do everything right. When I got in trouble, it really went downhill."
James couldn't be with his team for much of February and March because a judge wouldn't allow it. Following his Feb. 17 arrest on domestic violence charges stemming from a dispute with his ex-girlfriend, James spent nearly two days in jail, then was not allowed within two miles of the alleged victim's campus residence after being released. In the meantime, James, whose initial charges included the word "strangulation," became known around the country as someone who "beat up his girlfriend."
James eventually pleaded guilty to one count of physical harassment on March 12, and the official details of the incident painted a far milder picture. But by then it was too late.
"I'm sure a lot of people around the country that don't know me probably have a negative image of me," he said. "Even seeing myself on TV, I would think I did it too. The way they made it out to be, it was like wow, guilty until proven innocent. ... Anyone who knows me knows that's not the person I am."
James, a reported 3.0 student who says he aspires to become an Academic All-America, refers to his arrest and the subsequent coverage as "a really tough time -- but I'm still standing.
"Honestly, I don't think [the incident] was avoidable, and the media really took it and ran with it. But I was forced not to say anything. It's in the past. I'm never going to live that day again in my life, but it still has an effect on me. I think that day is going to make me stronger."
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