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All-American Letcher puts NFL dreams on hold, focused on final year with WU



Towards the end of James Letcher Jr.'s monster 2021 football season for Washburn University, the All-American receiver/returner was unsure if he would return for the 2022 campaign.

JJreturn 2Washburn star receiver/returner James Letcher Jr. will return for his final season this fall after earning five All-America honors in 2021. [Photo by Phil Anderson/Special to TSN]

Letcher went through Senior Day activities for the Ichabods and hinted after Washburn's NCAA Playoff loss to Harding that his college career may have been over.

But after doing considerable soul-searching, it only took Letcher a matter of weeks to decide he needed to return to Washburn for one last go-around this fall.

"I think it took a couple of weeks,'' Letcher said during Tuesday's MIAA Media Day in Kansas City, Mo. "I wanted to take my time and make the right decision for me and my family. I talked to God, I talked to my parents and I talked to a couple of family members about what they thought.

"It was all up to me at the end of the day, but with the input I got it helped me make the decision to come back.''

The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Letcher, who earned All-America honors from five different organizations last fall, also studied his NFL Draft prospects before deciding that pro football could wait a year.

"I don't know if too many people know, but I'm definitely wanting to go to the NFL,'' Letcher said. "I tell people all the time, 'I'm going to the NFL.' But with COVID a lot of players had another extra year, just like I did, so last year the draft class was super, super deep with a lot of receivers and that was the biggest point that made me come back.''

Last fall Letcher led Washburn with 68 receptions for 927 yards and 10 touchdowns for the 9-3 Ichabods, earning All-MIAA first-team honors as a wide receiver and a returner as well as being named the MIAA Special Teams Player of the Year after returning 24 kickoffs for 685 yards and two touchdowns, tying an Ichabod single-season record, and averaging 13.18 yards per punt return.

Now Letcher, who has already earned his bachelor's degree in law enforcement, is turning all his attention on making sure that he and the Ichabods have another big season this fall.

"If I have as good of a year or better than the year I had last year I think everything with me personally and the NFL will take care of itself,'' the former Piper star said. "I'm not too worried about individual stats. As long as we do good as a team, I feel like that will also take care of me as well and whoever else on the team that would like to go to the NFL.''

Letcher knows that as one of the MIAA's most recognizable stars, opposting teams will be putting even more attention on him this season, and he's fine with that.

"I love it., I love it,'' he said. "Especially coming from Kansas we get overlooked a lot, so I've always had that chip on my shoulder that I've got to prove people wrong, that I've got to do things right and I've got to make the big play. 

"I've got a lot of friends around the conference and even last year they talked about me being the guy they talked about, 'We've got to get him, we've got to make sure we have an eye on him at all times.' I kind of got used to it last year and I know they're going to be on me even more this year, but that's fine because if they double me I know Peter (Afful) or Collin (Wilson) or anybody else on the team is going to get open.''

The Ichabods, picked No. 4 in the MIAA preseason polls, will open fall camp on Aug. 8 and will open the 2022 season on Sept. 1 at Yager Stadium against Lincoln.

"I'm looking forward to it,'' Letcher said. "I'm excited for myself and I'm excited for my team and I'm ready to get going.''