Blue Raiders James, Rooker add to Blue Raiders’ preseason honors

Wide receiver Richie James taking a snap out of the "Wild-Richie" formation during the Blue-White Spring Finale at Floyd Stadium on April 15, 2017. (MTSU Sidelines/Tyler Lamb)

Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sidelines Archives

Middle Tennessee fifth-year senior kicker Cannon Rooker and red-shirt junior receiver Richie James both earned preseason first-team All-Conference USA selections Monday morning, adding to the list of preseason awards for the Blue Raider football team.

Rooker, who has also been named to the Lou Groza Award watch-list for the nation’s top kicker, has been named preseason first-team all-conference for the second year in a row.

Last season, Rooker’s school record of 112 points led to his selection as a first-team all-conference member. Rooker also connected on 16 field goals in 19 attempts, good enough for  fourth in school history. His longest kick of the season went for 46 yards in the season opener against Alabama A&M.

As a junior, Rooker missed just two extra points last season, while also handling kick-offs for the Blue Raiders.

“I am honored to be put on this prestigious team,” Rooker said. “I was pleased that I was able to make some big kicks and help the team last season.  We have put in hard work in the off-season, and we want to see that carry over into 2017.”

For James, this is also his second season in a row that he has earned preseason all-conference honors and he was also named to the Paul Hornung Award watch-list.

James also ended up as a first-team all-conference selection and a third-team all-american after a stellar sophomore campaign. The receiver put up some big numbers for the Raiders, hauling in 105 receptions for 1,625 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Sarasota, Florida native also saw time at running back, quarterback, kick-returner and punt-returner, which made him an easy choice for the Hornung award watch-list.

James joins 46 other players on the watch list and is one of only three players from C-USA to make the list.

The Hornung award, named after former Notre Dame great Paul Hornung, is given to college football’s most versatile player at the end of each season. The panel is comprised of college football experts who base the selections of the previous year’s statistics and expectations of the current season. The list of players is updated throughout the season.

“Paul Hornung was a playmaker and the spirit of the Paul Hornung Award is to recognize versatile, high-level performers who make an impact on the game,” said Karl Schmitt, executive director of the Louisville Sports Commission. “The Watch List is a work in progress, and we are particularly pleased from the outset to draw attention to almost two dozen individuals that have not received recognition with other awards.”

James proved to be an electric player no matter where the Raiders put him. He carried the ball as both a running back and quarterback , running 39 times for 338 yards and 4 touchdowns. As a returner, James fielded a total of 19 kicks and punts with a long of 29 yards for kick returns and 27 yards for punt returns.

Last season against Florida Atlantic, James showed just how productive he could be with the ball in his hands by going for a career-best 327 all-purpose yards. He did most of his damage on the ground by picking up 207 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Through the air, James added 120 yards and another touchdown.

With two impressive campaigns already under his belt, James knows how presitigious this award is.

“It is a great honor to be mentioned in the same company as the great players who are on the list for this award,” James said. “The Lord has blessed me with talent, and I try to work hard and utilize it to the fullest. I am happy to play any role and do whatever my coaches and teammates need me to do in order to help the team.”

Follow MTSU sports reporter Anthony Fiorella on Twitter at @A_Fiorella74 for more coverage.

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

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