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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Keyshawn James, DL, Fayetteville State

Keyshawn James
Keyshawn James is a team captain and fierce competitor for Fayetteville State who made All-CIAA First team in 2019 with 16 TFL and 9.5 sacks. He recently sat down with Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.
  • Name: Keyshawn James
  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 275 lbs
  • Position: DE
  • College: Fayetteville State University
  • Twitter: @_KeyshawnJames

Tell us about your university/college. Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?
I’m active in the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. I also participate in the Big Brother program which prepares students to become leaders in their community.

How did you end up at Fayetteville State?
My first year, I was at the Citadel. The coach that recruited me there had left. They thought about moving me to TE. I was only about 235 back then. I had other D1 options, but I didn’t want to sit out a year. I wanted to go somewhere where I could play right away, and I knew I could do that at the D2 level.

What do your teammates say is your best quality?
I play with an edge. I’m a competitor. I practice like it’s a game. My teammates have also seen me persevere through adversity on and off the field while bringing that same enthusiasm to the team.

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skill set?
I’ve been a team captain for 3 years now, going on 4 years. I’m versatile enough to play all along the defensive front. I believe I would be best suited to play a DT or 3-tech furthering my career. With my technique, violet hands, and quickness I feel as if interior lineman would have a problem on their hands lining up against me.

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?
I played against Trent Cannon who played at Virginia State. He now plays for the New York Jets. He was just the kind of RB that didn’t want to go down. He just separated himself with his speed and balance.

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?
Richard Latimer is our QB. He just has the ability to persevere. He’s a competitor who’s willing to put in the work. 

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.
I went through a lot coming into Fayetteville State. Our house had burned down, and it took us a while to move into a new place. My grandmother had also passed away, and I really wanted her to see me play that year. I also lost 5 friends, one actually right before my birthday. All the while, I still kept hanging on with a smile on my face. I stayed strong and focused, working towards my personal goals in life.

What is something that you are most proud of? What would you say is your biggest achievement?
I’m most proud of keeping my head on straight through adversity. I’m also happy to say that I have helped others while being a motivational speaker.

My biggest achievement so far came to head last year. I feel like I’ve just become a student of the game. In 2019, I was on the All-CIAA First Team Defense while having 16 TFL and 9.5 sacks.

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career.
At Winston-Salem, I had a strip sack. We were down, and things weren’t looking so good. It was time for us to lock-in and show who we are. After I had the strip sack, we went on to win that game. We needed to win out in order to get to the championship game. It was a make or break moment, and we delivered.

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?
In high school, I actually had scholarship offers on the table to play basketball and baseball. I think I would have played baseball. I was a dangerous third baseman.

Check out NFL Draft Diamonds 2021 Small School Rankings

What was your major/minor? Other than football, what would be your dream job?
I am currently majoring in Organismal Biology with a minor in Health Care Management. My goal is to be a rehabilitation physician.

What have you been working on in the off-season?
I’ve been working out at MAD5 Fitness and Gladiator School here in SC. I’m working on my hips and bending the corner. I’m trying to be the best pass rusher and run stopper I can be.

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?
Practically all the professional teams in Boston (Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots). Khalil Mack is one of my favorite players to watch, and I’d say that I model my game after Fletcher Cox.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Do you have any secret talents?
I have my own nonprofit that I’m working on called Shine Bright Mentoring Program which helps support kids and helps them develop life skills.

Why do you play football?
It’s like a burning sensation. I love it because you’re on a field full of grown men who are great athletes, and you have to out play them. I love the competitive nature of the game. It’s a game of perseverance. You gotta show up every day and play your best.

Who or what motivates you the most?
My Family. They have always been there for me through my ups and downs, my family is my backbone. My dad motivates me in the physical aspect of the game. Helping me stay focused on the small details of the game, but Most importantly my mom, I have her there to talk to about anything. She’s worked so hard for me and my sisters. Her unconditional love has really molded me into the man I am today, and I can never thank her enough.

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