UCLA’s Andre James draws his strength from his father
Andre James was lying down in his room last week when he felt some unusual stomach pains. The UCLA right tackle hopped into a car with teammate Rick Wade and rushed to UCLA Medical Center, where tests came back normal and James returned home after midnight.
Only a few days later, James was back on the field playing for the Bruins against Washington.
“It just showed to me,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said Tuesday, “his strength of will.”
That appears to be a family trait.
Marcus James, Andre’s father, will get to see his son play for the first time in about a year Friday night after persevering through a battle with testicular cancer.
Marcus recently finished his last round of chemotherapy and will be at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City when the Bruins (4-4 overall, 2-3 Pac-12 Conference) face Utah (4-4, 1-4) in what amounts to a homecoming for the James family.
“We’ve been talking about this one ever since he got diagnosed with cancer,” Andre said.
Now a redshirt sophomore, Andre grew up in Herriman, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, and worked out every day in the gym his father owns. Marcus had played linebacker in high school and junior college.
“He was really my inspiration,” Andre said. “I dedicate everything to him because he made me what I am today with all the training and stuff he’s helped me put in. It just means a lot.”
Andre has buoyed his family with his rise to prominence as a Bruin. He started the final seven games at right tackle last season after an injury to teammate Kolton Miller and has remained a fixture at the position after Miller moved to left tackle and James played some guard during spring practice.
Seeing his father at a game could provide all the incentive the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Andre needs to play his best.
“He’s just got a positive attitude,” Andre said. “I think everything’s going to be good, man. He’s a tough dude and everything is in high spirits right now. He’s really positive and all the docs and stuff are really positive.”
UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he wouldn’t need to alter the game plan or his play calling if quarterback Devon Modster makes his first career start against Utah in place of the injured Josh Rosen.
“I don’t expect to do that,” Fisch said.
“At all,” Fisch said.
Fisch declined to provide an update when asked about the status of Rosen, but said he sensed continued growth from Modster since he replaced Rosen midway through the third quarter against Washington.
“He walked on the field on Saturday and I looked at him and I said, ‘How are you doing?’ ” Fisch recalled. “And he said, ‘I’m great.’ And he had a nice smile, you know, and I said, ‘Well if you’re great, I’m great.’ ”
Fisch said he called a screen pass to help Modster get a confidence-boosting completion on his second play.
“After that, he really, I mean he threw a nice seam ball, he threw a nice ball to Jordan Wilson, a nice ball to D.A. [Darren Andrews],” Fisch said of the redshirt freshman who completed seven of 12 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. “So he had great confidence, and he showed that during the game and he’s continued to show that this week” in practice.
Fisch said both of his daughters dressed as UCLA cheerleaders for Halloween.
“But one of them is on like the dark side of it, kind of like a vampire cheerleader,” Fisch said. “And then the other one I think is kind of on the blonde side of it — the Hermosa Beach UCLA cheerleader.”
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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