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September 17, 2013Through three games of the 2013 college football season, the nation's leading rusher can be found in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers third-year sophomore running back Paul James currently sits alone in first place in the FBS with 493 rushing yards.
"I found out Sunday morning," James said of his early-season statistical feat. "I was pretty sure I got a text from one of my friend's saying it. So I went and checked it because I didn't really believe him at first. So I checked it and it was a great feeling when I saw it. I was really excited.
"After I had about 15 minutes to enjoy it, I had to calm myself down. We have a big game this week and I have to focus on the game plan. I can't let this get to my head."
James 192-yard, three touchdown performance against Eastern Michigan on Saturday was his latest highlight of the season as he showed an extra burst on touchdown runs of 52 and 55 yards.
"Every week, you have to look at what you didn't do in the last game and build on that to become the best player you can be. So each week I watch film and see what I need to work on and improve on," James said.
Thus far, James has put up 182, 119 and 192 rushing yards in his first three games.
However, those totals do not serve as a barometer for James through the rest of the season.
"I have this invisible standard. I don't see the opponent but what I want to hold myself to is a higher expectation so I just try to keep building and try to get to that invisible standard where we get like 400 rushing yards each game," James said. "Until I get there, I have to keep working on it."
With James' rise to becoming the nation's leading rusher has also been an upgrade in attention.
"The attention has definitely risen. I get a lot more attention everywhere I go," James said. "I enjoy it when fans come up to me and say 'great game, can I get an autograph?' It's exciting to give a kid a high five and make his day. It's just really exciting but also humbling. I have to remember where I came from, what I did to get here and how hard I worked."
James came to Rutgers as a walk-on out of Glassboro High School in the recruiting class of 2011 as he joined 24 other true freshmen, who had the luxury of a scholarship.
"I get asked about being a walk-on a lot but I'm not really tired of hearing about it," James said. "You can't run from your past. I was a walk-on so it's going to be with me forever but it's not anything I am trying to run from."
James could have played for free at a smaller FCS school but wanted to prove he could play in the big time at a BCS school. That also mean he would have to pay his own way as he relied on help from his mother, Kristina Jones.
"It was motivation when I saw my mom struggling to find money for me to go to school. I wanted to try and help her out," James said. "So the day they told me I was going to get a scholarship, she was really excited. She cried. It was a great moment for me to see her that happy."
Now that James has emerged as the country's leading rusher, the excitement at home has become that much greater.
"My mom's really excited. She always calls me before the game," James said. "She gets really into it. Ever since high school, she gets real nervous before I play the game. She has always been my No.1 fan and now that I have this opportunity she is so excited. She tells me all the time how proud of me she is. It's very special to me to have her there as my No.1 fan."