Jesse Craig "Pony" James (born January 2, 1961 in Jacksonville, Texas) is an American sports commentator for games on the ABC and ESPN television networks. Prior to becoming a sportscaster, James was a professional football player for the New England Patriots of the National Football League and for the Washington Federals of the United States Football League.
James attended Stratford High School in Houston, Texas, where he was a star on Stratford's 1978 Texas class 4A championship football team, setting the single-season Texas 4A rushing record with 2,411 yards gained in 15 games. James, a running back also attended Southern Methodist University where he and teammate Eric Dickerson formed what was known as the "Pony Express" backfield (SMU's mascot is the mustang). In the 1980 Holiday Bowl (known as the Miracle Bowl), James' offensive production of 225 rushing yards and 9.9 yards/carry were both Holiday Bowl records that stood for 13 and 15 years respectively. In 1982, he scored on a 96-yard touchdown reception to set a new record as the longest scoring play in Southwest Conference history. James was a part of the SMU teams that were found to have committed numerous NCAA violations, including receiving large sums of money from school boosters, which led to the enactment of the "Death Penalty" upon the school by the NCAA, although James himself was never accused of any wrongdoing.
After he graduated in 1982, James was drafted by the Washington Federals of the USFL with the 4th overall pick in the spring league's inaugural draft. James subsequently signed with the Federals a week after being drafted.