By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
It was a decision weighing heavily on his mind, so much so he could barely sleep Sunday night.
Having rarely ventured beyond the state line, Darius James wanted to experience all the wonders of being a high-profile recruit. He wanted to visit lavish lands, to be wined and dined in the lap of luxury, to be treated like the belle of the ball.
But in the end, none of that mattered to the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Harker Heights junior offensive lineman rated by many as the nation's No. 1 center prospect.
"I didn't want to go through the whole process because I felt like what's out there (isn't) better. I think Texas is the best school," James said Monday morning after verbally committing to Longhorns head coach Mack Brown during an impromptu visit to the Austin campus.
"I'm just really happy, it's like a weight lifted off my shoulders."
After originally saying he wanted to wait out his decision and visit several more schools, including planned trips to Norman, Okla., and Baton Rouge, La., this month, James reversed field last night and set his sights on the Longhorns.
"It was kind of weighing (on me). I just had a gut feeling that I needed to be a Longhorn. I'm here for (the next) four years of my life," said James, who chose Texas among 17-plus scholarship offers, including those from Alabama, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Nebraska, among others.
After canceling a weekend trip to attend the Sooners' Junior Day last week, James and mentor/Harker Heights assistant coach Rob Hagey decided Sunday night to drive to Austin on Monday morning and surprise the Longhorn coaching staff with the good news in person.
After a brief conversation with Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searels, who reiterated how much Texas wanted him, James made it official during a sit-down with Longhorns head coach Mack Brown.
"We just came up here and surprised them, and they were real happy," James said of the Longhorns coaches.
"When we got (to Austin), coach Searels pulled me into his office and said 'We really like you and want you,' and (I was like) 'That's what I'm here to talk to ya'll about.' And then he was like, 'Oh wait, don't tell me,' and we went in to coach Mack Brown's office and made it official," James said.
James becomes the third Killeen-area prospect to commit to a major Division I program this month, following Shoemaker running back Johnny Jefferson (Texas A&M) and fellow Knights teammate and best friend Naashon Hughes, who committed to Texas last week despite no official scholarship offer on the table. The Longhorns also have Hughes' older brother Camrhon - who joined James along the Knights offensive line last season - already on campus as a 2012 early enrollee.
"It makes it more homey, it makes (Texas) that much more of a feel-good place," James said. "It was real easy to make a decision."
Along with Hughes and James, who make up 2013 commitments No. 11 and 12 for Texas, the Longhorns have verbals from eight of the top 11 prospects from the state of Texas according to Rivals.com's Lone Star Recruiting's Top 100 list. They are still pursuing 6-foot-6 Belton junior tight end Durham Smythe, who visited Stanford last week and is reportedly planning to make a decision between Stanford and Texas later this week.
A first-team Class 5A all-state selection in his first season along the offensive line, James graded out at 94 percent with 70 pancakes and 67 knockdowns while also contributing 71 tackles (six for loss) and seven hurry-ups sharing time along the defensive line.
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7566.