Rebuilding a college football program isn't so dissimilar from renovating a house. Both are time-consuming endeavors and both often involve taking parts that have been cast aside by others and using them to create something new.
For the Akron Zips, senior defensive lineman C.J. James and junior defensive lineman Nordly Capi have been two of those pieces procured from another place and used to help overhaul a program still in need of significant improvement. Both have become starters for second-year head coach Terry Bowden and are among the leading tacklers for the Zips.
A faraway place
As recently as three years ago, neither player had any connection to Akron, either the city itself or the university. Capi had barely even heard of Akron and couldn't recite a single fact about it.
James, a native of Orlando, Fla., had never been to Ohio and the closest he had come to Akron was 350 miles away. Now, both players are key cogs for Akron after being teammates while at Colorado State.
"The closest I had been to Akron was probably Baltimore, but the first I really heard about the university was through (defensive line coach Todd) Stroud," James said with a laugh. "I found out that he was going to be here and coach (Terry) Bowden was taking over the staff."
After playing in 10 games and finishing second in sacks for Colorado State as a junior, James decided that he would have a better opportunity to play and make an impact elsewhere. He weighed his options and based on a connection with Stroud, decided to travel east to a place he had never been and play his final two years of college football there.
After sitting out his first year under NCAA transfer rules, he stepped into the starting lineup this season and is tied for second in sacks. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, his quickness and athleticism have been his best assets against bigger offensive lineman. James has become one of the key players in the defensive line rotation as the unit has shown improvement in narrow losses to Michigan and Louisiana Lafayette.
In the Zips win over James Madison on Sept. 7, James made six tackles, along with a sack, forced fumble and a pass break-up. Capi has been active on the defensive front as well and had one of his best games in a loss to Lousiana Lafayette on Sept. 21, with a sack, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
His first season as a Zip has been a fresh start for the Ocoee, Fla. native.
"It's like starting all over. You're like a freshman and you've got to go in and earn some respect, show what you can do," Capi said.
Page 2 of 2 - James agreed and said he came to Akron looking to impress.
"Whenever you step onto new ground, you have to prove yourself and what you can do, really make a name for yourself. You definitely look at it (transferring) as a motivator," James added.
Capi and James both said they feel a sense of responsibility to prove the Akron coaching staff right for giving them a second chance. Leaving Colorado State has given both players chips on their shoulders and a desire to show that Bowden knew what he was doing by welcoming them to the UA roster.
Their new teammates have been welcoming as well and although they didn't come in with a recruiting class full of fellow freshman going through the same experiences, the transition has been a smooth one.
"When I got here, they guys took me around, show me the ropes and how things work around here, so it was a really easy transition," Capi said.
The next transition ahead for the duo is being a part of raising Akron football from the bottom of the Mid-American Conference back to one of the conference's top teams.
"Definitely, you've got to make the most out of it, bring some wins back to Akron, try to win a MAC championship and bring the winning tradition back to Akron," James said.
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