FORT WORTH -- Highly recruited 4-star junior defensive lineman Kaleb James has several reasons for being high about University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman's program.
An avid outdoorsman, James' first trip to Arkansas was to fish for trout on the White River in the summer of last year. He then made his way to Fayetteville on March 13, not long after the NCAA instituted its dead period because of covid-19.
"So my first time ever to going to Arkansas was actually for a fishing trip and then I visited the campus and toured it myself and kind of walked around," James said. "I fell in love with it then."
James, 6-5, 250 pounds, of Fort Worth Nolan Catholic, has 22 scholarship offers from schools like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Utah, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Minnesota, Arizona and others.
He received his offer from the Hogs after his showing at an Arkansas camp in June and returned again on July 31 for a cookout for recruits and parents. James attended Arkansas's 20-10 victory over then No. 7 Texas A&M on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
James was in contact with Pittman and defensive line coach Jermial Ashley leading up to the game. He said he and his parents think well of Pittman.
"He has a really good relationship with my parents," James said. "My parents trust him and I trust him and hopefully I can be on his team soon."
James said his parents appreciate Pittman's way of doing things.
"They like that he's just a blue-collar guy," James said. "He's straight to the point. No cutting corners. He's going to tell you straight and he's going to help build me into a player and to my best potential."
James also said he could see himself playing for Ashley.
"I love that guy," je said. "He's very humble and very straight to the point just like Coach Pittman, and I think he would take care of any kid that would want to go there."
He explained what else attracts him to Arkansas.
"Just the culture and the fan base, it's crazy," James said. "Everybody has bought into the Razorbacks. The campus is phenomenal. You can go hunting and fishing on the land outside of campus."
ESPN rates James as a 4-star prospect, the No. 32 defensive end and No. 224 overall prospect in the nation for the 2023 class.
He had 57 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 27 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble recovery and 1 pass defended as a sophomore. In five games this season, James has recorded 42 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, 2 recovered fumbles and a forced fumble.
He also said the Hogs' 40-21 victory over Texas on Sept. 11, and the play of safety Jalen Catalon and linebacker Grant Morgan impressed James.
"That defense they have right now is crazy with Catalon and Morgan," James said. "It was really surprising seeing them battle against Texas and pulling out the dub."
Nolan Catholic Coach David Beaudin has led the Vikings to the playoffs every year since taking over the program in the spring of 2016, including the TAPPS Division I title game last year.
"I think he's a lunch pail, blue collar kid who brings it every single day," Beaudin said of James. "Extremely consistent. Very versatile as a player. Can play on the edge, can play inside."
James said he is a lover of football, not the limelight.
"He's not in love with recruiting, he's in love with football," Beaudin said. "He generally loves it for the right reasons. You can see it the way he practices every day and just how humble he is even with all these accolades."
James is looking to major in business and minor in economics with hopes of taking over his father's recycling business.
"I want to try and take over his business and expand it nationally," James said. "Right now he owns his one recycling plant in Dallas."
He could make his college decision in a few months or longer.
"I'm thinking about making a decision after the season or maybe the beginning of my senior season," James said.
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