(Carroll Athletics) - For three days during the NFL draft, general managers called athletes moments before their names were read from the podium at Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. Every potential NFL player awaits that call but for many the call came after the Broncos drafted Southern Miss cornerback Kalan Reed at No. 253.
The minutes after the draft is the realm of the undrafted free agent and for former Carroll College All-American offensive tackle Josh James it is his chance at a dream come true.
"It was literally right after the last pick," James said. "We were talking with a few other teams throughout the day but they called and told me that I had about five or six minutes before they had to move on. I called my agent, talked for about a minute and a half, called back and told them I wanted to be a Packer."
The four-year starter for the Saints and two-time First-Team All-Frontier Conference honoree will don the green and gold in the hopes of walking out onto the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for the Green Bay Packers.
"It is kind of hard to express in words, I am extremely excited, ecstatic," James said. "I am nervous to be going up against NFL athletes, all of these guys from DI, power-five schools but I am still really, really excited."
Carroll head coach Mike Van Diest echoes the feelings of his star offensive lineman who saw James develop into one of the best linemen in a long line of great lineman at Carroll.
"It is exciting as a coach, and it doesn't matter if it is a first round guy or a guy signing a free-agent contract, you can still see the excitement on these guys' faces and hear it in their voices," Van DIest said. "There is such a small percentage of guys that even get to the free agent level. Josh is in very elite company and it is exciting for him, for his family and for Carroll College.
James is not the first Saints to catch the eye of a pro scout, 2003 graduate Casey Fitzsimmons earned a tryout with the Detroit Lions and turned that into a seven-year NFL career. Tyler Emmert (BC Lions), Zach Thirly (Philadelphia Eagles) and Bubba Bartlett (Houston Texans) all earned a shot at a pro career.
"It speaks volumes about the kind of guys we recruit," Van Diest said. "You look at that list of players that have gotten at least a shot and they were great at Carroll. Dominant in fact. But the best part about each and every one of those guys, including Josh, is that they left Carroll with a degree."
James was one of 30 players that the Packers brought in for one-on-one meetings and work outs just a few weeks ago. He was impressed with the facilities, the people and the small town atmosphere, a big part of the charm of Green Bay.
"Their facilities were, of course, much bigger than Carroll and anything that I am used to seeing but the people there were extremely nice," James said. "I really like their offensive line coach, coach (James) Campen; I kind of had a gut feeling like I did when I met coach (Jim) Hogan. It felt right and I am excited that I get to return and be a part of that."
James is excited for the opportunity to get to work but he also knows that he wouldn't be where he was today without Carroll, his teammates and his coaches.
"I am pretty proud and humbled to say that I was coached by coach Hogan, coach Van Diest, coach (Nic) Howlett and coach (Alex) Kastens while I was at Carroll," James said. "I am excited to carry the Carroll banner into the NFL."
James' free agent signing is proof to Van Diest that wherever you play, if you are good enough you will get the call.
"It isn't always the Alabamas, Oregons, Clemsons or Ohio States that send people to the NFL," Van Diest said. "There is a lot of good football being played in small schools. You saw players from Southern Utah and Stoney Brook get drafted today. If you are a great athlete, the NFL scouts are going to find you."
James leaves Thursday for rookie mini-camp where he will be joined by the Packer's seven draft picks and multiple free-agent pick-ups. After rookie mini-camp James will move into workouts then OTAs all-told James expects to be in Green Bay for at least 7-8 weeks.