By Erin Mulvaney
AUSTIN (Reuters) - ESPN analyst and former professional football player Craig James filed as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate on Monday, entering a Texas race already packed with well-financed and high-profile contenders.
James is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican, who is retiring.
Several prominent Texas Republicans have been campaigning and raising money for months including Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite.
Also on Monday, former Texas state representative Paul Sadler filed to run for the seat as a Democrat. Ricardo Sanchez, the retired Army lieutenant general who had been the only prominent Democrat in the running, withdrew from the race on Friday.
James filed with the Republican Party of Texas in Austin on Monday afternoon, according to the party.
James, 50, lives in a Dallas suburb. In the 1980s, he played for Southern Methodist University, the Washington Federals and the New England Patriots.
In 2009, he was involved in the controversy surrounding the firing of Texas Tech University football coach Mike Leach when he said his son, who played for the team, was mistreated after an injury.
James serves on the board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an influential conservative think tank in Austin, and founded Texans for a Better America to promote conservative policies.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune)