Auburn football draft prospect sends mature message on 4th and 31's effect on him

Reese's Senior Bowl
Reese's Senior Bowl / Don Juan Moore/GettyImages

Auburn football draft prospect DJ James had a measured and mature response to 4th and 31 -- the most heartbreaking play in his career, and easily Jordan-Hare Stadium's most heartbreaking moment in the post-COVID NIL era, during the 2023 Iron Bowl in the fourth quarter to decide the game.

Use it as fuel moving forward.

“Real motivation for me,” James said of the infamous game-winning Jalen Milroe hail Mary touchdown toss to current Texas Longhorn Isaiah Bond with 43 seconds left in the game and the Tigers up 24-20 (h/t “Just looking back at that time, it put an extra chip on my shoulder going into this process as well. I’m very excited as well for it.”

James parlayed the heartbreak on the Plains to some home cookin' at the Senior Bowl in Mobile on February 3. His name became a more relevant one in NFL draft circles, and he will likely end up being the highest draft pick of any Auburn Tiger come April 25 or April 26.

Senior Bowl was healing for Auburn football draft prospect DJ James after 4th and 31 heartbreak

Playing in front of his hometown crowd for the last time before coming a pro was cathartic for James, as his former Spanish Fort coach Ben Blackmon would put it.

“Getting back in and playing I think was really good for DJ to go to the Senior Bowl and play and compete,” Blackmon said. “Get him back into the groove of playing. Getting that play off his mind and onto his future.”

He won't get a chance to play in front of a hometown crowd or with an AU on his helmet, but James will be able to represent the 251 as he makes NFL millions in the coming years.

And all the memories in the loveliest village, good or bad, will stick with him forever. Because you can leave Auburn, but it will never leave you.