Most people will tell you that Brookfield East senior Alec James is a nice young man, a gentleman. However, "most people" doesn't include opposing offensive linemen, running backs and quarterbacks.
James, all 6-foot-4-inches and 230 pounds of him, was a terror on defense for the Spartans and one of the major reasons the team's defense helped carry them to an all-time school record of 10 victories, the second Greater Metro Conference Championship in school history and a first-time participation in the Level 3 playoff.
James was named NOW All-Suburban Player of the Year for his efforts, adding to his list of accolades, which also included being the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Player of the Year.
"It was a pleasure coaching him," said Brookfield East coach Tom Swittel, who was the GMC Coach of the Year. "I don't know how to say it, but beyond his ability as a player, he is a nice young man - humble, a hard worker. He never expected special treatment. He was actually someone embarrassed by the notoriety, the recruiting, all the awards."
James, the conference's Defensive Lineman of the Year, had 97 total tackles, 12 sacks and four forced fumbles.
Defense first, offense second
He also played some time on offense, adding 209 yards rushing and three touchdowns. His biggest offensive highlight was a 67-yard touchdown run against Greendale to clinch a playoff win.
"At the beginning of the year, as soon as I got the ball, I wanted to go, go, go," James said. "It didn't work all the time. Toward the end of the season I realized I had to slow down and read the defense, see where they're going. It was a lot of fun; I liked it a lot."
But James, who received a football scholarship to play at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, knew where his bread and butter was.
"I was needed more on defense," he said. "I have a lot of trust in the coaches. They know what they're doing. I just did whatever they asked me to. Obviously, it worked."
Swittel knew he had Zach Schober, voted the top running back in the conference, so defense is what James focused on.
"Alec is primarily a defensive player," he said. "Defense was his No. 1 priority. We got more out of him on defense than we if had him play a lot of offense."
Swittel and his staff moved James around on defense, so it wasn't easy for the offense to find him.
"Alec is the type of player you (the opponent) has to scheme for," Swittel said. "Somebody has to know where he is and account for him.
"Some opposing coaches say run away from him, some say run right at him because he is too good pursuing, he's too fast. If we played him at end all the time, people could double-team him with the tackle, tight end or the back. So we put him over the center or guard.
"We study the opposing team and find their weakest link regardless of position."
James and the seniors had been looking forward to this season for a long time.
"We knew, even when we were young, with this senior class, once we got older, we'd have some success just because we knew how hard each other worked," he said. "We would all push each other.
"We just expected success. We weren't arrogant or anything, we played with class. It was nice to get all those wins and make history.
"We realized we had one more year to show people Brookfield East can play football. We made it to the playoffs the last two years. We wanted to show people we could win the GMC and go deeper into the playoffs."
Yet it wasn't the perfect season in the end.
"But the thing that sticks out to me the most was we couldn't go to state," James said. "I know we had all this success, but we didn't accomplish our ultimate goal."
You wouldn't expect less from Alec James.
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