BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — James Halford enjoys doing the dirty work nobody sees.
He cherishes the football apprenticeship Indiana gave him as a scout team linebacker and fullback, and he'll always be proud of the four years he spent in the Marines — even if he's hesitant to discuss the details.
The 26-year-old walk-on has never craved attention, which is why he's a little uneasy talking about himself heading into Saturday's Salute to Service festivities during the Hoosiers game against No. 10 Iowa. It's not that Halford wants to distance himself from his military experiences. He just believes other service members are more deserving of the spotlight.
"It's a chance to honor everyone who's served, but I get a little uncomfortable with it. It's called service for a reason," he said. "What I did was nothing to brag about and plenty of guys did more than me, like my grandpa who served in World War II."
Halford did his part with four years of active duty, working long hours as a tank missile man.
After being stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, he shipped out for two tours overseas. Even now — as he splits time between classwork, film study and practice — Halford remains part of the Individual Ready Reserve, meaning he could be recalled at any time during the next four years. If it happened, his dream of playing college football would likely end instantly.
But Halford signed up for this.
College football seemed like an impossible dream for the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Illinois native. He hadn't played football since his freshman season at Carmel Catholic, near Chicago, and initially wanted to run track.
When that didn't work out, he enrolled at a community college and later enlisted in the Marines.
What he did have was a desire to play, and his platoon mates encouraged him to give football a shot.
During his spare moments, Halford relentlessly lifted weights and pushed his bench press total past 400 pounds. He still had his speed and contends he probably could still run the 100-meter dash in about 11 seconds.
So last November, Halford filmed a YouTube video detailing his training regimen and listed key stats — such as a 35-inch vertical jump, a time of 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a punting average of 55 yards and a top squat of 450 pounds.
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson agreed to give him a four-day tryout in August, and Halford was impressive enough to make the team, though he acknowledges he's far from a finished product.
"There's a huge learning curve," Halford said. "Being part of this team kind of reminds me of my old platoon — everyone's willing to help and I think that transition would have been a lot harder if not for that group. They're all encouraging me."
Halford has not played a down this season. If the redshirt junior does make it onto the field in the next two years, it would likely become Indiana's "Rudy" moment.
Wilson was happy to push Halford onto center stage this week.
"If we are going to represent our military and our vets, we've got a guy that's a four-year serviceman on our team," Wilson said. "Like to throw him out and just be respectful of what he sacrificed and has given to us and to our country."
Even if Halford feels a little out of place in the spotlight.
"Just because I was in the Marines, I don't deserve any special treatment," he said. "You serve for the country, not to get attention."
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