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AUBURN, Ala. Former Auburn and San Diego Chargers fugitive Lionel James, who made a name for himself unstoppable despite his small stature, died Friday after a long illness, the university said. He was 59.
Auburn announced the death of James, a 5-foot-6 player nicknamed “Little Train,” but gave no further details.
James played five seasons with the NFL’s Chargers, who have since moved to Los Angeles after being drafted in the fifth round in 1984. He set an NFL record of 2,535 all-purpose yards in 1985 after leading the Chargers in rushing reception. and kickoff and punt return yardage.
He led the AFC in receptions that season with 86, while setting the NFL record for receiving yards with a running back of 1,027.
James, inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, led Auburn in versatile yards in 1981 and 1982 and became one of the first signature players of the Pat Dye era. He was team captain in 1983 and helped lead the Tigers to their first Southeastern Conference championship in 26 years.
This backfield included 1985 Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson and another future NFL player, Tommie Agee.
“Lionel James defined Auburn football for a generation,” David Housel, a former Auburn sports information director and athletic director, said in a press release.
Agee called James “pound for pound one of the best players of all time to play football.”
James returned to Auburn after his NFL career and graduated in 1989. He coached close ends on Terry Bowden’s staff in 1996-97.