Imagine being an undrafted player, getting moved to a position you've never taken a snap at and being groomed to start at that new position to replace arguably the best player in the league at that position.
No, this is not the tagline for some movie that's about to drop on Disney+ next week -- which I must admit would be a pretty fire movie.
This is Andre James' third NFL season.
Andre James may have had the most eventful offseason of any Raider on the roster. The Raiders traded All-Pro center Rodney Hudson to the Arizona Cardinals, making James the de facto starting center. Three days after Hudson was traded, James signed a multi-year extension with the Raiders – further pushing the narrative that he is their guy at center.
The legend of Andre James has extensively grown over the course of the offseason. Derek Carr, Darren Waller, Richie Incognito and Kolton Miller are just a few that have publicly cosigned for the center, expressing a lot of confidence in his abilities.
Carr has been a fan of James since the center had to step up in his rookie season and play in two games for the injured Rodney Hudson. In James' one NFL start, Carr threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-24 victory over the Detroit Lions.
While it hasn't been seen much to the public eye, James and Carr have developed a lot of chemistry in their two seasons together from Oakland to Las Vegas. Carr has gotten a lot of reps with James in practice, as Hudson would occasionally sit out practices on Wednesdays for veteran rest purposes.
They also got practice reps early this offseason, working out together in parks on sets and formations and staying in constant contact with each other. James even took some time off the field to grill his quarterback some American Wagyu Tomahawk steaks and smoke a 16-pound brisket.
"Yes, he's a new starting center but I felt like I got a couple thousand reps with him," Carr said Wednesday morning to the media. "He started the Detroit game for us awhile back and did a great job. Showed flashes of someone with great understanding and things like that. Toughness, all those kind of traits you need at that spot.
"Obviously we had Rodney [Hudson], who everyone would say is -- he's one of, if not the best center in the whole league. And it's hard for a guy like Andre to play in front of that guy. So now that Rodney is gone, Andre can step in and fill that spot and I feel super confident that he's going to do a great job. I'm not going to compare him to anybody. ... I don't want to put any expectations out there for him but I'm excited for him because he's super smart and I believe he's a good football player."
The center expressed that "at UCLA, I never even snapped the ball" and had to learn on the fly and "just took it day by day" after joining the team.
James took a moment Wednesday to reflect on the victory against the Lions his rookie year. Despite still being new to the position after playing left and right tackle in college, the game proved that he could compete against legitimate NFL competition.
"When Rodney went down in that Houston game, I felt super confident," said James. "I always prepare my mindset like 'I can go in there at any time' and that's just how I had to prepare for each game – like I was going to start that game. So when my number was called, it's just that 'next man up' mentality."
That "next man up" mentality has guided James through the process of replacing a center of Hudson's stature. He fully recognizes the daunting task of stepping up in the starting role, but refuses to let him affect him.
"Rodney was arguably one of the best centers in the league so everyday I came in here and just tried to get a little piece from him, a little information everyday," he said. "That's kind of the attack I still take on today. Just everyday just get a little better, just work on the little things and it adds up over time. Get a little better so everything I learned from him, I'm still using today."
While the story of Andre James isn't a movie yet, it has all the necessary plot components of putting together a watchable film. If the chemistry between James and Carr can translate on to the field once they get pads on, the eyes of Raider Nation will be impressed with what they'll see on the screen.
View photos from the Raiders' first practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center during 2021 Training Camp.