CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa senior receiver Jaylin James was met with one of the larger moments of adversity in his college career in last week’s loss to North Dakota State.
With his team trailing 25-14 in the third quarter, James dropped what would have been a 19-yard touchdown to pull the Panthers back within one score of the top-ranked Bison.
“At the end of the day the play has to be made, but everybody’s not perfect. Mistakes are made,” James said. “The biggest thing that I can do is just learn from it, understand why it happened, and tell (my teammates) I’ll make the next one no matter what.”
Asked Monday about James’ drop, UNI head coach Mark Farley didn’t hesitate to explain that James is harder on himself than anyone else and he knows he’ll be prepared to make the next play.
It’s that type of attitude that’s helped James eclipse the 100 career reception mark and become a key component to the offense for No. 14 UNI (3-3, 1-1).
James and freshman quarterback Will McElvain are both Des Moines natives, so when McElvain committed to UNI in February 2018, the two worked out together the summer before the former Lincoln standout got to campus. Then, James said, “we were on the field every single day this summer.”
That field, a lot of times, was McElvain’s backyard in Des Moines.
“Just being able to have that relationship with (Will) on the field and off the field, it’s really helped both of us,” James said. “I’ve always known that he’s been just a baller, but it’s different playing against him and then playing with him. I think if you’re playing against him, it’s got to suck, period.”
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While enjoying playing with McElvain, James says he hasn’t performed up to his expectations this season and he thinks the rest of his teammates on offense would say the same of their group. However, James believes the Panthers offense is close to hitting its stride ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against South Dakota (3-3, 2-0) at the UNI-Dome.
“I think there’s a lot more opportunities out there and plays to be made. It’s a matter of everybody doing their job on every single play,” James said. “I think the ceiling is very high for this offense and I think we should be able to have plenty of yards in our games.”
With only six guaranteed games remaining in his college career, James reflected back on his choice to come to UNI, describing the family environment around the team as his deciding factor.
“The crazy thing about it is it feels like just last year I was a freshman,” James said. “I’m honestly so blessed and thankful for everything UNI has done for me. But, there’s still six games left in the season (and) I want to be able to give everything I can. Make the most out of all my opportunities and just try and become the great playmaker I know I can be.”