"I'm fine with whatever anyone wants to call me, James or Bubba," said James "Bubba" Poole said. "My mom calls me Bubba. I'm not even sure if my mom knows my real name. She calls me Bubba."
Bubba, who got his nickname from his uncle, is sure making a name for himself as a redshirt sophomore. In his first season in Division-1 football, Poole has taken over the starting running back job. He totaled 197 yards and scored a touchdown last week against Oregon State.
"He's really unseated Kelvin [York] as our lead guy until something happens to change that," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "He's going to be the guy that gets the majority of the carries."
Poole runs with a certain toughness that perhaps comes from an incredible survival story that occurred when he was just a year old. After two men tried to steal his father's car, an altercation ensued and gunshots were fired. Poole, just a baby, was accidentally shot in the ribs and thigh.
"It's actually a crazy story," Poole said. "Most of my life, I actually didn't even know what really occurred. I grew up thinking something else happened."
It wasn't until Poole was 17 years old that he found out the real story. He thought he had been shot in a park, not in an attempted robbery. It wasn't until he wrote a paper in school and brought it home that his mom discovered he didn't know the truth.
"She asked me if I made the story up," he said. "I said, 'No, that's how I got shot, right?' She started laughing and said, "No, that's not it at all. Let me tell you how it happened so you know.' It was more or less us never really talking about it. I was OK and that was all that really mattered."
Poole said only one of the two men was ever caught, but he was let out of jail because of a lack of proof.
Poole made a full recovery and went on to live a normal childhood. But looking back at what happened to him 20 years ago has given him a new appreciation for life.
"Basically it just goes to show that I'm a very blessed kid," Poole said. "To be here and talking to you today is probably the most blessing I'll have in my life."