Back in the spring, Craig James was hoping for an opportunity with an NFL team.
While he was training, he also was interning at his high school (Edwardsville, Illinois) as a social worker, working on his degree at Southern Illinois.
“I was working with the kids with special needs,” James said. “I was in their classrooms, helping them out and teaching them and things like that.”
James said his interest and inspiration to work with young people came from his mother, who also works with individuals who have special needs.
“When I was about to do my internship, I asked her for a little bit of guidance and tips, and she helped me out,” James said. “I always wanted to help out. I always liked working with kids, helping them out and seeing them grow.”
James received a call to come participate in the Vikings rookie minicamp as a tryout player and returned to Minnesota where he began his college career as a member of the Golden Gophers, totaling 18 games in two seasons (2014-15). James played defense and on special teams before suffering a broken leg and opting to transfer.
As a member of the Salukis, James was named to the All-MVC Newcomer Team in 2016. He returned 19 punts 162 yards and totaled 37 tackles (26 solo), with two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
He made the most of the opportunity and was one of four tryout players signed by the Vikings after a strong weekend showing, along with linebacker Brett Taylor, fullback Johnny Stanton and receiver Chad Beebe.
Here are three topics that James discussed with Vikings.com:
What was it like growing up the St. Louis area?
“It was nice. I got to be closer to family, because at first I was in Springfield (Illinois), but moving closer to family, about 15 minutes away, makes a huge difference. They could be at your games and stuff like that. At the same time, you’ve got a nice city about 15 minutes away.”
What was it like to find out you would be coming back to Minnesota?
“It was kind of a blessing. When I was up here for college, I really didn’t want to leave the first time. It was just some situations that occurred. I had to leave. Coming back was a blessing. I’m familiar with the place, I’ve got some friends still on the college team, so it’s really just a blessing.”
How close are the four of you guys who were signed after rookie minicamp?
“We’re pretty close. That honestly built a connection with us. Me and Brett kind of have more of a connection since we played against each other in college, and then at the same time, we also shared lockers next to each other. It’s more of a connection.”