Chris James finished his senior season at Niles (Ill.) Notre Dame Prep last Friday when the Dons got shut out by Loyola Academy in the second round of the playoffs. But once he recovered from the disappointment of the loss, James knew where he had to turn his focus:
From there, it didn't take long for the 5'10" 208-pound running back prospect to know where he wanted to go, and on Friday afternoon, he made the call to Pitt head coach Paul Chryst.
"He's a busy man, so I was a little surprised that he answered," James told Panther-Lair.com about 30 minutes after making the call. "So I told him that he had my full commitment and that I can't wait for the future.
"He was excited. He said, 'Whoa, I didn't see that one coming.' I think that was the best part of it, just surprising him like that because the staff has always been there for me and they've always been honest with me. They're great, genuine people, and that was a big factor for me in picking Pitt."
Pitt's coaching staff was a primary factor in James' decision, but it wasn't the only one.
"Pitt's really a great academic school and with the city there are just a lot of amazing opportunities there for everyone, not just athletes," he said. "All of that stuff contributed to it, and when I visited I just really felt good there."
James visited Pitt in the spring but has not taken his official visit. He could make that trip in two weeks when Pitt hosts Miami on the day after Thanksgiving, but he hasn't confirmed those plans yet. Regardless, he didn't feel like he needed to see anything more.
"I just felt like, if you know what you're doing and where you're going, there's no reason to hold out," James said. "I figured, what's the point of waiting? There's no reason to make everyone anxious and wondering about what you're going to do; what's the point of doing that when you know where you want to go? So I just went ahead and did it."
As a senior in 2013, James rushed for 1,687 yards and 19 touchdowns in 11 games, including eight 100-yard games and four 200-yard games. All of Pitt's current running backs are underclassmen, but James thinks he'll have an opportunity to play early in his career.
"The coaches always told me I could come in and have a chance to compete, not as a starter but have a chance to show what I can do as long as I play hard and compete for a spot," he said. "That's where the hard work comes in, and I know I'll put it in."
Early playing time wasn't the only thing that drew James to Pitt. He had offers from Wisconsin, Tennessee, Arizona State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Syracuse, Idaho, Marshall and Western Michigan, and said the Panthers, Badgers and Volunteers were his final three teams. To pick one school from that list required some introspection and evaluation.
"After football was done, I got all my thoughts together about where I want to go and wrote down all the things about the schools and I sat down with grandma and all that stuff, and I just felt like Pitt was it," he said. "I see myself playing early, I'm comfortable academically and athletically and I can start a whole new chapter in my life.
"People may ask me why I'm going to Pitt, but obviously they don't know the program Pitt's building. The coaches are really doing a great job; they have a lot of young guys and lot of good guys in the class, and I'm really looking forward to the future. I can't wait to get there."
James is the 19th recruit to commit to Pitt in the class of 2014 and the second running back prospect, along with Buffalo (NY) Canisius three-star Qadree Ollison.