Edgerrin James’ road to the Pro Football Hall of Fame wasn’t the smoothest ride, but he stayed true to himself, and it paid off. He played seven of his 11 NFL seasons for the Indianapolis Colts. It was there that he became a star alongside the likes of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne.
The University of Miami product made $68.9 million throughout his career. However, he admits he could’ve made even more. James reveals that certain people tried to change him, but he wasn’t interested in buying what they were selling. Instead, the South Florida native did everything on his own terms, and the decision ultimately capped his earning potential.
Edgerrin James reveals he missed out on millions due to his image
The Indianapolis Colts selected Edgerrin James with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft out of Miami. The former Hurricanes star hit the ground running on the football field. However, he admits some people wanted to change his image.
During a recent appearance on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast, James opened up on what kept millions out of his bank account early in his NFL career.
“After I started to get real good real fast,” James said. “That’s when it started to come like, ‘Man, you may want to remove your dreads, remove your gold teeth because there’s so many opportunities out there for you.’ You have commercials, all these endorsement opportunities.”
James suggests Indianapolis was a conservative city, and his image might not have been as well-received by everyone initially. That’s when the push came for him to cut the dreadlocks and remove his gold teeth to make him more marketable.
“I could’ve made millions of dollars off the field easily,” added James. “And became more popular, but that wasn’t my thing.”
The Colts legend made it to the Hall of Fame by being himself
Edgerrin James did well for himself in the money department. He’s the second-highest earning running back in NFL history from a pure salary standpoint. Even though he didn’t make the additional millions off the field, his play on the gridiron spoke volumes.
The 6-foot, 219-pound running back quickly became a focal point in the Colts offense. He racked up 1,553 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 369 carries as a rookie. James led the league in rush attempts and rushing yards in 1999.
The Miami product won the rushing title again in 2000. James’ athleticism and physical running style helped him become one of the best backs in the NFL.
After seven seasons in Indianapolis, James played three years with the Arizona Cardinals before finishing up with a brief stint for the Seattle Seahawks. Still, people most remember him for his contributions to the explosive Colts offense.
James finished his career with 12,246 rushing yards, 433 receptions, 3,364 receiving yards, and 91 total touchdowns in 148 games. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020. And he didn’t need to cut his dreads or take out his gold teeth to get there.
James helped pave the way for other players from South Florida to reach the NFL
If you ask anybody from South Florida, they’ll tell you their area produces the best athletes. It’s pretty hard to refute that argument, too. Countless talented NFL players have come from the region, including Edgerrin James.
The Colts legend is from Immokalee, Florida, about an hour away from Miami. He takes great pride in where he comes from. His image was part of who he is and the area that raised him.
James didn’t want to change his appearance because he served as a role model for kids who came from the same circumstances he overcame. He felt if he changed, that would send the wrong message to the youth that looked up to him.
“You can go farther being yourself than trying to be somebody else,” said James. “You give them hope to say, ‘Man, look, I don’t have to go be this and be that to make it. That’s why it was very important for me to just be myself. Plus, I don’t know no other way. I’m here to play football. If you’re all polished and got yourself together, but you can’t ball, they’re gonna get rid of you anyway.”
Edgerrin James was unapologetically himself. He opened the door for other South Florida players to do the same in the NFL. From Chad Johnson to Devin Hester to Lamar Jackson, many stars benefited from the Colts Hall of Famer’s sacrifice.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference