AUSTIN (The Texas Tribune) – Saying he wants to help get the country “out of the pickle box that we’re in,” Craig James announced his run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate this afternoon.

“I’m doing this because it’s what you need. It’s what I need. It’s what we all need,” said the sports announcer and former pro football player.

James, who filed for the race last month, is late to a crowded field of Republican candidates that includes Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz and funeral home director Glenn Addison. Democrat Paul Sadler, a former state lawmaker, is among those seeking the Democratic nomination. All of them are running for the seat now held by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who’s not seeking another term.

James said he can’t self-finance the race but that he has invested “a substantial amount” of his own money in the race. He wouldn’t specify the amount, saying it will be revealed in campaign finance reports due later.

James was part of the “Pony Express” team at Southern Methodist University, and said Thursday that he accepted “insignificant amounts” of money from boosters at the school. He wouldn’t say how much, but said that at the time he was eating at cheap restaurants and had to borrow a blue blazer when he needed a jacket. He said emphatically that what he did “had absolutely nothing to do” with the NCAA’s “death penalty” sanctions at the school several years later. But he said it was the culture at the time, that he was young, and that “it was wrong.”

That “Pony Express” moniker attached to the team when James and Eric Dickerson joined the team as running backs in 1979. In 1986, the NCAA shut down the school’s football team for taking money from boosters and paying players. The investigation found that school officials had known about the payments as early as 1981.

James said he understands business and free markets and that’s why he’s suited for the Senate. He said he supports Rick Perry among the candidates for president, but that he will support whoever wins the nomination. He said the federal government should enforce immigration laws and that the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. broke the law and ought to be sent home. But, he said, it’s not practical to deport that many people and that leaders in Washington should work out a practical solution.

James will be on stage in Austin tonight along with Dewhurst, Cruz and Leppert at a Senate debate sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Empower Texans. James is a former board member of TPPF.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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