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Once Upon a Time, Jerry Offered LeBron A New Sport

Once Upon a Time, Jerry Offered LeBron A New Sport

Right before the new millennium at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.


QB Chris Wooley didn’t have much of a great game until about halfway through the third quarter when a 6’6 freshman who never took a snap on the varsity team to this point was finally given a shot by Irish coach Jim Meyer. The 14 year old outshined every freshman receiver at practice and it was apparent that this guy needed to be on varsity. Around town, everyone heard about this guys basketball talent but football no one was quite sure how that would go. Chris Wooley knew exactly how it would go. One day a few weeks earlier while walking behind him through the school’s gym as James walked past mid-court, he scooped up a nearby volleyball and began sprinting toward the hoop. About a foot past the foul line, James took off, spinning 360 degrees in the air before finishing off the dunk with authority. As James fell to the ground, so did the entire gym class. That thought came back to Wooley that day in the third quarter and he continued to remind his coach, “put him in the game.” So in the fourth quarter freshman LeBron James entered the game with coach limiting the playbook to just fade routes and screens. James’ impact was felt immediately. If a cornerback pressed him at the line, he was running past them easily. Hit him with a screen, he would juke past the first defender with ease. After a couple plays you could tell, this guy can play. “If I got it within a 10- to 15-yard radius, he was catching the ball,” Wooley said. James scored two touchdowns and accumulated more than 100 receiving yards. The Irish lost the game but there was hope for the future of this football team.

Carmen Studio Photography / LeBron James in 1999

Long before James was looked at as a top prospect in basketball, he was first known for his football skills. Stories circulated around Akron about a kid playing peewee football who could throw right-handed touchdowns when rolling to his right and left-handed touchdowns when rolling to his left. At eight years old, he then surprised people with his basketball skills. Talent through the roof. Because of his shocking but dominate debut, the question now was will James pick football over basketball. During his sophomore year, James caught 42 passes for 752 yards and 11 touchdowns earning all-state honors. Programs like Florida State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida, and USC began talking to James about scholarships during his junior year. James went on to play in the NBA of course, but it’s fascinating to think that this guy could have possibly been one of the greatest athletes to play in the NFL.

Fast forward to 2011, the NBA is on a lockdown due to differences between the players and owners to reach a new CBA agreement. So with extra free time available to him, James had his eyes set on possibly a football career. “I had no idea how long the lockout was going to be, and myself and my trainer Mike Mancias, we really started to actually train to be a football player when it came to October, November,” James said. “We started to clock our times in the 40, we started to add a little bit more in our bench presses and things of that nature. We started to add more sled to our agenda with our workouts. “Mike kept talking about, ‘It’d be great to go down to Irving, Texas.’ … ‘It’d be great to go down there to Dallas and suit up for the Cowboys.” James said this during a conference call for Uninterrupted.

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Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, business partner and former teammate while as a freshman Maverick Carter had some interesting news to break. “I know he got a contract from Jerry Jones that he framed and put in his office,” Carter said. In Jerry Jones fashion. Can you imagine the media circus that would surround the Cowboys if that were to happen? As usual, the Cowboys would be more known for what’s happening off the field opposed to what’s happening on the field. I do imagine LeBron James being successful in the NFL. He’s a physical specimen who can probably do whatever he sets his mind to. The thought of him playing football is really interesting, especially knowing what Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and a couple other two-sport athletes were able to accomplish. A fan can always dream. LeBron was not a champion before this lockout happened. He had the worst series of his life months prior losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. So for him to jump to football would have made his criticizers feel as if the nonsense they were spewing about him at the time seem true. Luckily, LeBron never joined that circus and now has three NBA Championships. I’m not sure he brings a Super Bowl to Dallas. But he is LeBron James. Impossible seems tough for him. 

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