Years at KU: 2010-2013
Career Stats: 798 carries, 3,592 rushing yards, 34 rushing touchdowns; 72 receptions, 587 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Best Season: 2012; 186 carries, 1,013 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns, 14 receptions, 168 yards, one receiving touchdown
Accolades: 2012 First Team All-Big 12 by ESPN.com, CBS Sports, and Phil Steele Magazine & Second Team All-Big 12 by the conference coaches and the Associated Press
This series was done in chronological order, but the final two on this list are among the most successful—or on their way to being there—in Kansas history.
James Sims had an extremely accomplished collegiate career. He is still third all time in rushing (behind June Henley and Tony Sands), second in touchdowns, second in carries, was the first Jayhawk since Jon Cornish in 2006 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and set a Kansas record for six-straight 100-yard rushing games. Those 2012 stats are even more impressive considering he only played nine of the Jayhawks’ 12 games after being suspended for the first three games of the season for an offseason DUI.
The only thing Sims didn’t do much of was win. He went 9-39 for his career, but that had more to do with having two years of Turner Gill and two of Charlie Weis as his head coach and a quarterback group of Jordan Webb, Dayne Crist, and Jake Heaps. It’s frankly impressive he was able to find as much success as he did given that he drew a defense’s full attention. The average passing yards per game during Sims’ tenure were 161.8, 167.4, 148.7, and 140.4. There was not exactly a high-octane air attack to worry about.
Had it not been for those three early-season games Sims missed in 2012, he had a real chance to leave Lawrence as KU’s all-time rushing leader. He is 249 yards behind Henley, which means he would have only needed to average 83 yards over those three games to tie that mark. That would have been a likely feat as the Jayhawks put up 263 and 195 yards on the ground in the first two games against South Dakota State and Rice without Sims.
Nov. 16, 2013 vs. West Virginia: 22 carries for 211 yards and three TDs
Sims is still the only Kansas player in at least the past 20 years (as far back as the Sports Reference database goes back) to rush for at least 200 yards and have three rushing touchdowns in a game.
WVU had a 7-3 lead when Sims scored three straight touchdowns—including a 68-yard TD run—to break the game open for the Jayhawks. It was Kansas’ third win of the year, its only conference win of the assson, and snapped a six-game losing streak and 27-game Big 12 losing streak.
He broke a couple of long runs and otherwise ran through the Mountaineer defense as he accounted for more than half of Kansas’ 376 total yards.
While Sims was an immediate natural on the field coming into college, he was not a natural in speaking to the media. By the end of his career, he was representing Kansas at Big 12 media days.
But Jesse Newell shared how as a freshman, Sims took coach Turner Gill up on an offer not to do interviews his first year if he didn’t feel comfortable. The idea of saying something bad during an interview gave him anxiety. Instead, he would practice by talking into a camera and then watch it back to learn and improve.
The work ethic that made him one of the most prolific backs in program history was put to good use in other areas of his career.