For all the smiles Edgerrin James would wear throughout his NFL career, the work the running back would put into his football life was no laughing matter.
“I take this way too serious,” James once said, after signing with the Cardinals in 2006. “I take it way too serious.”
It made a difference on the field. It also made a difference off it, after James was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday.
“It means everything to be sitting here,” James said in a press conference following the announcement. “My thing was always to be patient, and it was just a matter of time.”
James played the bulk of his career in Indianapolis and also had his best years as a Colt. But his three seasons with the Cardinals were not meaningless – they included two 1,000-yard seasons in his first two seasons in Arizona and a trip to the Super Bowl in his third.
James ran for 1,159 yards in 2006 and then 1,222 yards in 2007 — the latter being the most for a Cardinal since the team moved to the desert, at least until David Johnson surpassed it by 17 yards in 2016. Edge’s 2006 total had been tops before his 2007 mark.
Even in 2008, when he fell out of favor with coach Ken Whisenhunt as rookie Tim Hightower got work — James actually didn’t play a snap in three games that season and finished with 514 yards — the Cardinals don’t make the Super Bowl that season without James stepping up in the playoffs.
In his 11 seasons, James was named to four Pro Bowls and totaled 12,246 yards rushing. That puts him 13th all-time in the NFL, and ahead of Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Franco Harris, Thurman Thomas and John Riggins among players in the top-20 of all-time rushers.