When James was in the sixth grade his teacher sent a note to his father asking him to drop by school the next Monday. "That was on a Friday," Mr. Lofton recalls, "and I worried all weekend. Was it drugs? What had he done? When I got to school his teacher said, 'Where's Mrs. Lofton?' I said, 'There isn't one now. But what has my boy done?' 'Nothing,' she said. 'He's an A student and I just wanted to meet his parents.' "
Bill Walsh told Lofton back at Stanford that success demands a certain display of confidence and class, that when he made it big he should buy himself a Porsche. Lofton has one, a dark blue 911 SC. He also has a lunch pail that, according to Beverly, tells you as much about her husband as you need to know. "The thing I've found is that James is partly a romantic, a man who loves the arts and sentimental things, and that he's partly a little boy. Some of the Packers take their lunches to work. Well, James decided he needed a lunch pail. So he went to the store and when he came out he said, 'Wait till you see what I got!' He had this little square lunch pail with monsters on it. He was excited because it was the last one in the store. So now he drives to practice in his Porsche with his briefcase and his little monster lunch pail."
This isn't to imply that Lofton has gone soft. Hardly. In the Packers' last preseason game, against New England, an official ruled Lofton had caught a ball out of bounds. Furious, he threw the ball behind him and the Pats' bench. On the next play he was hit late after gaining 15 yards on an end around, and this time he threw the ball in anger over his head and into the stands. Lofton remains aggressive, confident, aloof, but he knows a little better now how the world works and how it can be used to his advantage.
"I know this," he says. "If you don't say you're the best, nobody else will. Not long ago a reporter asked me who I thought the five best wide receivers in the NFL were. His magazine was picking the best player at each position. So I said first was me, second was J.J., third was Wes Chandler, fourth was Jerry Butler and fifth was Tony Hill. And when the magazine came out, I was rated the top wide receiver, just as I said." Well, fine. We can live with gestures like that.