Christian James from the trenches to the sky

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

Leonardo da Vinci

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Graduate Christian James, a defensive lineman on Vanderbilt’s football team, understands da Vinci’s notion as well as anyone. With a grandfather who served in the Air Force and an uncle who owned airplanes, James was exposed to flight from a young age.

“I didn’t enjoy flying as a kid actually,” James remembered. “The more I heard stories from grandad the more I really started thinking about it.”

Going into his senior year of high school James took the next step and obtained his student pilot’s license.

Looking down at the world from 4,000 feet above offers a person a unique perspective on things.

The same city streets and rural, winding roads that someone drives on a daily basis suddenly transform into a canvas of networks, connecting communities sprinkled between swaths of forests and waterways. Valleys and hills take on new forms and one starts to take notice of landscape features not visible from ground level.

But perspective from the sky is not the only experience James brings to the Vanderbilt locker room.

Throughout four-plus seasons in the black and gold, James has experienced a plethora of circumstances. Learning how to manage a full schedule as a freshman, working with new coaches, changing majors, navigating the unknown during a world-wide pandemic; James has dealt with each challenge thrown his way.

“I was just talking to my dad the other day about how tough it can be for a kid to change scenery,” James said. “You come into college wide-eyed as a freshman, everything seems new. It can catch you by surprise.”

For James, head coach Clark Lea brought a grounding presence to the program.

“The first football game I ever attended was a Vanderbilt game. This was always the school I aspired to go to growing up,” James said. “[Coach Lea] is a Vandy guy. Having him and Coach [Jovan] Haye and Earl [Bennett] has been very positive.”

James has taken the skills he’s learned through football to all aspects of his life, including his career aspirations. Whether its mental preparation, time management, relationship building, or merely being part of a team, James dug into those skills during his undergraduate capstone internship with Music City Media.

James started out an economics major, but transitioned to human and organizational development and is now in the marketing graduate program at Vanderbilt.

Once his football career is over, James wants to remain in Nashville, one of the world’s meccas for the music and entertainment industry. James worked on the public relations side of things, working to promote artists through different avenues.

“With football, I wanted to compete in the best conference in the country. The music industry is also very competitive, and Nashville is the best of the best for that,” James said.

Growing up in Memphis, the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll, and attending college in Music City, it’s easy to see why music has always been a cornerstone of James’ life.

He received a guitar for his birthday a few years ago and is working on adding that skill to his repertoire as well.

Whatever challenge James takes on next, he can lean on his perspective to guide him through.