For weeks Saxton remained among the nation's leading ground-gainers simply by running with the football six or eight times a game. On successive weekends against SMU and Baylor, however, Royal turned him loose. He played 18 minutes, carried 16 times and gained 173 yards against SMU, setting a school record. Against Baylor he played 19 minutes, again carried 16 times and gained 171 yards. Saxton believes that the 80-yard run against SMU was his best.
The score was 0-0 in the third quarter when Saxton slashed into right tackle. "I was blocking ahead of him," says Ford, "and I would have sworn there was no hole. I know I didn't open one." Somehow Saxton emerged on the other side. He threw a fake at the SMU linebackers, which left several of them sprawling on the ground, then cut to his right and the sideline. Jack Collins, the wingback, came over to render one SMU halfback horizontal and Saxton outran another. Then, trapped by the safety man, Saxton reversed sharply, slipped past the tackier and scored.
"We needed that one," says Saxton. "It was important."
"He always plays well in Dallas," says Royal. "His girl goes to school at SMU."
No one, least of all Saxton, is able to explain what makes him go. Like all great runners, he does what comes naturally. "It's instinct, I guess," he says. "Some sort of radar, like a bat. Last season I missed going for a touchdown against Rice because I dodged the referee. I felt him coming up over on my right side, behind me, so I cut back into some tacklers. 'James,' Coach told me later, 'the referee wears a striped shirt.' I couldn't help it. I never look at uniforms when I run.
"I do know one thing. I run scared. I don't like to get hit. I think touch football is really my game."
On the Texas campus Saxton lives in Moore-Hill Hall and, aside from its occupant, Room 109 is no different from a thousand other college dormitory rooms across the land. It is about as large as a pool table. A radio blares constantly, there is a bar bell under one bed, a football on top of a filing cabinet and hair-oil stains from some long-departed predecessor on the floor. Neighbors drop in to borrow soap ("You'd think they'd stop," says Saxton. "We never have any") and stay to insult Saxton. "I see you lived through another game, you skinny little shrimp," they say.
Saxton's roommate for four years has been Kay Brockermeyer, a large lineman unable to play since his sophomore season because of an injury. "He doesn't give me much trouble," says Brockermeyer. "When he does, I stick him under the bed."
Saxton is studying business; he makes B and C grades and has a vague notion of someday pursuing a career in personnel management. At the moment he is thinking of playing pro football. "I hope they'll be able to use me as a slot back," he says, "or maybe even on defense, although I'm pretty small. I've tried everything to gain weight. One summer I got up to 178 pounds—and then I caught a virus and lost it." "I'd hate to have to feed him," says Brockermeyer. "He eats more than I do. You'd think every meal was going to be his last."
Seven other teams in the Southwest Conference would have been happy if three years ago James Saxton had starved to death.