LaMichael James and Luke Skywalker: How James is like a Jedi
LaMichael James is a hero. Not in the sense that he has a cape and fights powers of evil like how Indiana Jones fights Nazis, but that his journey through Oregon football is a hero’s journey. I’m not saying he should be looked up to as a role model, because as Charles Barkley once said, “Parents are role models.” LaMichael James is nonetheless a hero, with some remarkable similarities to one, Luke Skywalker. He followed the path of the heroic archetype to get where he is now. He left his family, had a moment that set him on his way, had to prove himself over and over, suffered an un-healable wound, and then redeemed himself. It’s the path every hero takes, including LaMichael James.
Unusual circumstances of origin
A hero’s journey begins under a cloud of mystery and/or born in to royalty. Batman was born in to the wealthiest family of Gotham and Superman was jettisoned from Krypton before the destruction of the planet, making his history a mystery even to himself.
Luke Skywalker lived with his aunt and uncle, and later in episode 4 Luke said he never really knew his parents. Only later was it discovered that living with his aunt and uncle was a precaution to protect him from his father. Luke was born with a strong connection to the Force and his father was one of the leaders of the evil empire.
When LaMichael James came to Oregon there was some fanfare, but largely he was unseen until the 2009 Boise State game. Injuries marred his first year at Oregon and LMJ largely only appeared in practice reports of breaking big runs. He was part of a rich tradition of running backs with NFL players Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount ahead of him on the depth chart, and Jonathan Stewart having left for the NFL the year before James got to school. There was a large amount of mystery as to his true potential until he got his first carries against Boise State, one being a 22-yard run that set up Oregon’s only touchdown.
Leaves Family, lives with others
Just like Simba left to live with Timon and Puumba, Luke Skywalker and LaMichael James lived away from their families. Luke Skywalker lived with his Aunt and Uncle. LaMichael James left Texarkana, Texas for University of Oregon. In all of these cases, leaving their family was a crucial part of the hero’s growth during his journey.
Event, sometimes traumatic, leads to adventure
Luke Skywalker had purchased CP30 and R2D2. Stormtroopers had been looking for the droids throughout Tatooine, Luke’s home planet. After looking through the purchase records of the creatures that sold the robots, the stormtroopers were led to Luke’s aunt and uncle, whom the stormtroopers promptly killed. When Skywalker returned home to find his aunt and uncle dead and his home ruined he began on his journey to fight the evil empire. Luke had been hesitant to be trained in the force by Obi-Wan Kenobi but decided to begin after the traumatic event.
For LaMichael James his trek began in Boise, Idaho. He was second on the depth chart behind LeGarrette Blount who had some problems in the offseason and came in to the game looking out of shape. The offense was a mess as a whole, only getting eight points on the day and 31 rushing yards. The lone bright spot was LaMichael James taking a fly sweep for 22 yards to inside the Bronco’s five-yard line. After the game, as every Duck fan painfully knows, LeGarrette Blount falcon punched Bronco defensive end Byron Hout who was running his mouth, yo (Blount has let people believe that Hout said some racially charged words. I doubt though that anything racist would have been said, because then players on the Broncos would have probably disowned Hout. I’m betting some pretty bad things were said though). LaMichael James now was the starter, number one on the depth chart for the game against Purdue in 8 days. Kenjon Barner, a converted defensive back was the second string back, but LaMichael James was thrown in to the fire the next game.
Special weapon only he can wield
The lightsaber is the ultimate weapon for Jedis. It takes a well-trained Jedi who has great control of the force. It’s an old weapon, and Luke Skywalker was one of the only people who could wield it. The most powerful fighters in Star Wars all had lightsabers
LaMichael James was truly gifted with speed, being able to run so fast that only he can handle it. Kind of like the drug Charlie Sheen, which only Charlie Sheen can take. His one cut and run style is the perfect running style for the zone-blocking scheme Chip Kelly runs. He’s not the fastest player in the country in terms of flat out speed, Jeff Demps holds that title, but I don’t think anyone else in the country plays faster than LaMichael James does. There are times when it looks like he is jogging but he’s still pulling away from defenders.
Hero has supernatural help
Obi-Wan Kenobi, a great Jedi, taught Luke Skywalker the ways of the force. He introduced Luke to his past and his father’s demise. Once Ben was killed by Darth Vader he led Luke through the rest of episode 4. Luke needed Ben Kenobi to grow as a Jedi and to reach his potential. Without Ben, he would have stayed as a farmer on Tatooine. That would suck wouldn’t it? Solo and Leia would have never met and revitalized the Jedi way of life, and the Emperor would have continued being a huge dick.
The instrumental help LaMichael James received were from his coaches Chip Kelly and Gary Campbell. Campbell has produced somewhere in the neighborhood of 129 NFL running backs, and Chip Kelly is an offensive innovator. Kelly tailored the offense to fit James’ strengths and Campbell dealt with James on a greater individual level. Without them LaMichael could have never reached his full potential.
Hero must prove himself many times while on adventure.
Luke Skywalker had many challenges he had to overcome on his journey to being a hero. In “A New Hope,” he destroyed the death star by putting a missile in a hole in the death star that was only two meters wide. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke has to complete Jedi training with Yoda before fighting Darth Vader in an attempt to free Han Solo and his friends. In “Return of the Jedi,” Luke finally kills the emperor, destroys the second death star, and saves the universe from the clutches of the evil empire.
LaMichael James was the starter for the game against Purdue following the Boise State
debacle. He split carries with Kenjon Barner, Remene Alston, and Andre Crenshaw. With 2:24 left in the third LaMichael James showed his speed and quickness when he came to a full stop behind an offensive lineman, and then once the hole opened, sprinted for twelve yards. Against Utah he broke out and had a lot of really nice, long runs using his cutback ability. Against USC he had over 150 yards rushing in a game that showed how far Oregon had risen under Chip Kelly. In Pasadena against UCLA, he did a spin move in the end zone to avoid a safety, and then almost broke free for a 98-yard touchdown run, but was tackled at the 45-yard line. In the Civil War, LaMichael James had a game-changing 55-yard touchdown sprint down the sideline in the third quarter. By the end of the season there were no doubts amongst Oregon fans of who would be the go-to guy for the next two years.
Journey and the un-healable wound or Descent in to Hell
Every hero has a tough journey and along that journey there becomes a moment where they hit rock bottom. It could also be the hero’s journey to hell. Jesus went to hell in the Bible and Hercules traveled to Hades. In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly goes to the alternate 1985 in which Biff is married to Marty’s mother.
When Luke Skywalker fought Darth Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back” he was wounded in two ways, literal and metaphorical. He learned that Darth Vader was his father, who Skywalker has been trying to kill for the previous three hours of the trilogy. He learns that his father is still alive and that his death was figurative in the sense that the dark side of the force overcame the good Anakin Skywalker. Luke’s hand is also cut off by Vader’s lightsaber; the literal wound that is replaced with a robotic hand.
Before the 2010 football season LaMichael James pled guilty to misdemeanor harassment charges and was suspended the first game of the season. After reading the case report my response is, “Bitches be crazy.” The incident put LaMichael James in a very tough situation, and of course he could have handled it better, but LaMichael James lost the public opinion battle to all the people who don’t closely follow college football, which is a true shame.
Atonement for the father or self-redemption
After a hero is at the low point in his journey, he has to respond positively and redeem himself. Most often this positive change is made in the form of correcting mistakes of the father, or the people before him.
When Luke Skywalker turns down the dark side in Episode 6 and kills the emperor, he effectively atoned for his father’s mistake of turning to the dark side. Luke became a good Jedi and in the books that were not made in to movies he helps rebuild the Jedi order.
In 2010 LaMichael James was named an Academic All-American. He finished third in the
Heisman, higher than any Oregon player ever has. Not only did he accomplish goals that show his intelligence and character, but also he was a positive member of the team and his character post-fight was talked about by the media. He made up for his own mistakes, and in a way, helped make up for Blount’s faults by being a positive running back who did the right things. All while LeGarrette Blount was tearing up the NFL and creating his own redemption story.
When the hero dies he’s rewarded spiritually
At the end of a hero’s journey he has been a true influence and will always be remembered for his efforts. William Wallace is still talked about in Scotland and Beowulf just had a 3-D movie made about him.
At the end of “Return of the Jedi” you see Luke Skywalker partying with the Ewoks after the second Death Star is destroyed. He looks in to the trees and sees Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker. They all have that glow that ghosts seem to have. Anakin got to pick the non-burnt to crisp version of himself although Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi got stuck with the old version of their bodies (If that isn’t bullshit I don’t know what is). This gives the viewer the impression that when Luke dies, he too will live on in spirit.
By the time LaMichael James leaves Oregon he will hold the record for most rushing yards in a season, most touchdowns in a season, most touchdowns in a career, and most rushing yards in a career. Most likely, he will also be the first two-time Heisman finalist (I’m guessing Andrew Luck will get the award for his stellar play, being a first overall draft pick, and having it be a career achievement award (but my fingers are still crossed for James!)). He will also go down in history as the greatest Oregon running back ever, and it could be a while before we see another running back like LaMichael James. He’s a special talent and a hero.