Earlier this week, some PR folks got in touch with me about a promotion involving LaMichael James and Gatorade. The campaign is called "Beat the Heat", and is meant to raise awareness about proper sports fueling during the summer months, before, during and after athletic activity. Gatorade is working with the Korey Stringer Institute in Connecticut. For those that don't remember, Stringer passed away in 2001 after suffering severe heat stroke at Minnesota Vikings training camp.
Gatorade has a variety of athletes spreading the word, and LaMichael James happens to be one of them. LaMichael was gracious enough to give me a few minutes to chat with him about the program and the upcoming 49ers season. The first few questions are about the campaign, and then I was able to follow up with a mix of football questions.
In speaking with James, I came away impressed with his confidence and what he can bring to the team. He didn't get into too many specifics about his role in the coming season, although he did indicate he was getting a lot of work in the passing game and had gotten some work in the return game. That first preseason game should tell us a fair amount about his potential role.
Head after the jump to check out our Q&A with LaMichael James.
Niners Nation: What exactly is the "Beat the Heat" program?
LaMichael James: You just gotta stay hydrated. The program is educating athletes about the importance of hydration and working out in the hot summer. It doesn't matter where you are, just like I'm in the Bay where it's a little cooler, but it's important to stay hydrated. When I was in Oregon we had to drink a lot of fluids. You never know where you're going to be playing games at, the weather of the games where you're gonna be playing. You gotta stay hydrated. When you don't have those fluids, that's when you pull something, bad things start to happen and you're not able to perform to the best of your ability. Right now, what I'm doing w/Gatorade is Beat The Heat. You gotta stay hydrated so you can stay in the game the whole game.
NN: I would imagine, you had to learn a bit about hydration before you came to Eugene. I've got to think that in Texarkansa it's a little bit toasty.
LJ: Definitely. I think if I would have known some of the things I knew once I got to college, that you need to stay hydrated and drink more fluids, I probably wouldn't be coming out of the game so much when I was in Texas.
NN: What can athletes do to beat the heat and stay hydrated and healthy?
LJ: You gotta start like a week before. When I was at Oregon, we had to start hydrating the week before. You can't just start the night before a game, or two nights before a game and say I'm gonna drink all these Gatorades and then it's gonna be ok because you have to realize it's all going to go to waste. You start a week before, you get those fluids in you. Get some electrolytes in your body before you go out to play and you'll be ok.
NN: Besides Gatorade, because obviously that's what this one is about, is there anything people need to pay attention to nutritionally?
LJ: I think you get out of it what you put into it. Just like, the things you put into your body. If you put bad things into your body, you're gonna get bad results at the end of the day. Just working with Gatorade it's taught me that, too. I eat a lot of chicken. It's good for protein, but you can't eat a lot of friend chicken every day. You gotta take it responsibly. Take care of yourself before practice and after practice. I think Gatorade has a lot of different options.
NN: I'm going to move onto some more football-specific questions. You're joining Coach Harbaugh and obviously you just came from working with Coach Kelly up in Oregon. Are there any similarities or differences that are notable between the two?
LJ: There are. They're both no BS guys. There's no grey area. They expect you to go out there and perform to the best of your ability and practice hard. Just like I said before, you get out of it what you put into it. If you don't go out there and practice hard, at the end of the day that's just a wasted day. I don't want to hold myself accountable for not going out there and not practicing hard when someone else can be having my spot doing the same thing. So I hold myself accountable, going out there practicing hard each and every day. You gotta live up to those standards, to be a 49er. And I think everybody here wants to win a championship. This is a great team so I have to go out there and practice hard each and every day.
NN: Classes ended later for you at Oregon than a lot of other kids coming out of college. Have you been able to get up to speed on the playbook and how did you get ready without being able to participate in the 49ers traditional offseason training program?
LJ: It was a bit difficult for me at first, but I think since I've been here I picked up the offense really well. Working with my running backs coach Rathman, working with Colin Kaepernick. He's really been helping me out, bringing me up to speed on the playbook. It's all coming along pretty well for me right now.
NN: Now that you're in camp and everybody is starting to show up, the 49ers have brought in several running backs the last couple years. What do you think you bring to the 49ers offense that can bring a little something different and help elevate it to another level?
LJ: Well, most definitely, I'm an all around athlete. I can do pretty much anything. I add a different dimension than a lot of different guys, just like they add different dimensions than me. I think we're all similar, but we're all different. I think it helps the team in many different ways and I'm just excited to get started.
NN: Has the coaching staff indicated any specifics as to your role in the offense this year?
LJ: You know, not really. They're throwing me the ball a lot. So I think that helps. Maybe they'll throw it to me a lot in the games, and I'm all for it. But no one's come over to me and really indicated my role. I just go out there and practice hard each and every day.
NN: Has the coaching staff indicated if you'll get some work as a kick or punt returner?
LJ: I practiced that, too. I've pretty much done everything. So I guess you'll just have to wait and see.
NN: A lot of the media has talked about it as Kendall Hunter vs. LaMichael James, and you're both competing to get some carries behind Frank Gore. I'm curious how you view the running back competition?
LJ: You go out there and compete with yourself. I'm not going out there and competing with Kendall Hunter. I think he's a great running back. He showed up last year. He's done great things and I think we're both in this game to help the team win. It's not really a competitive nature between us. I think we're both going to go out there and try and make the team better, and make ourselves better. We want to go out there and win games. It's not really a dual battle between me and him.
NN: One of the question marks that people have raised is, you're not as big as some of the traditional running backs and I'm curious, do you see yourself adding any muscle heading into training camp, or do you think that the size you're at allows you to do your thing?
LJ: I am what I am. You know, it got me this far. I started out being very successful with the way I am. I'm not gonna go out there and try and be something that I'm not.
NN: Makes sense. Really appreciate it.
LJ: Alright cool.