JAMES BOSTIC ISN'T EXACTLY SURE WHEN HE TOOK the hit. It was
sometime during a Friday-night high school game in which he gained
200-plus yards. The next morning he went to his sister's place, by
which time his left leg had swollen so large that he couldn't pull
his pants up past his ankle and his foot had turned blue. Cynthia
rushed her brother to the hospital. After a long operation Bostic got
the good news: His leg would not be amputated. Then the bad news: He
might never play football again.
At the time, Bostic was a highly esteemed junior tailback.
However, the diagnosis of Bostic's swollen leg revealed that he was
suffering from a rare circulatory ailment. During the operation 18
inches of muscle were removed from his left thigh. It was only after
long hours of rehabilitation that the six-foot, 224-pound Bostic was
able to come back. He did so with a vengeance. By his own account he
is, to put it simply, relentless. ''I'm a tough guy,'' Bostic says.
''But to keep up the tough-guy image, I have to play tough. I can't
just walk around talking about how tough I am.''
How tough is Bostic? While his biceps bears a tattoo of a panther
surrounded by the words NEVER ENOUGH RESPECT, a more appropriate
emblem might be his stiff arm. Although Bostic gained 819 yards and
earned All-SEC honors last year as a sophomore tailback, speculation
was rife that he would be switched to linebacker this season, what
with the return of sophomore tailback Stephen Davis, the '91 USA
Today national high school player of the year. Bostic even suited up
as a linebacker for a few plays of the spring game. ''I didn't know
what Coach Bowden had in mind for me,'' Bostic says. ''Tailback is my
favorite position, but I do love hitting people.''
But from the season's start Bostic sent a clear signal to everyone
that he could keep his job at tailback and still satisfy his urge to
deliver hits. In the opener, against Ole Miss, he plowed for 138
yards and one TD on 28 rushes. By the glorious season's end Davis was
still a part-time player while Bostic remained the most fiercely
aggressive, most contact-hungry running back in the nation. He
finished first in the SEC with 1,205 yards rushing, gaining an
average of 6.1 yards per carry and scoring 12 TDs. More important,
Bostic's dependable jackhammering between the tackles and his fast
start allowed Bowden to establish offensive balance from the outset
while gradually phasing in the passing attack. ''Stephen Davis was
being hailed as the next Bo Jackson,'' says wide receiver Frank
Sanders. ''That hype pushed James a lot.''
With a gentle smile and a soft-spoken manner, Bostic hardly seems
capable of the viciousness he exhibits on the field. ''JB's just a
physical, brutal runner,'' says Tiger fullback Reid McMilion.
''Sometimes he'll go by you, but usually he runs over you, through
you and out you.'' Tough stuff, indeed.
This is an article from the Dec. 17, 1993 issue