Who is the new ‘Bachelor?’ Meet Matt James, former Wake Forest wide receiver

“The Bachelor” finally has its first-ever black lead for Season 25. Matt James, one of the suitors of Clare Crawley during the current, incomplete 16th season of “The Bachelorette,” will be the latest man looking for long-term love on ABC’s popular long-running reality series.

James will have his episodes air in 2021, assuming the coronavirus pandemic won’t shut down production, like it did for Crawley’s season. The producers saw enough of James to like him to star in the next edition of the show and also felt it was the right time to respond to call for more diversity in casting “The Bachelor.”

In a campaign fueled by Rachel Lindsay, who was the first black woman to become a “Bachelorette” for Season 13 in 2017, and further backed by an ardent fans’ petition, ABC listened and followed through by promoting James.

“We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience,” the network said in a statement. “This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”

While James, 28, waits his turn to hand out roses, here are the facts you need to know about him:

Matt James played college football at Wake Forest 

James, a native of North Carolina, was a talented wide receiver for the Demon Deacons. After not playing much his first three seasons, he caught 40 passes for 401 yards as a senior in 2014. One of his teammates and good friends was backup quarterback Tyler Cameron, who was the runner-up on Season 15 of “The Bachelorette” starring Hannah Brown.

James also had a brief stay in the NFL. He was invited to the Carolina Panthers’ rookie minicamp in 2015, but he failed the make the roster of a team that was headed to win the NFC and play in Super Bowl 50. He also spent some time with another NFC South team, the New Orleans Saints, after the Panthers cut.

There was a strong fallback for James, as he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from one of the nation’s most revered academic universities.

Wake ’N Shake (@wfuwakenshake) has become the largest philanthropy event on @wfuniversity campus . Brian Piccolo not only left a lasting mark on Wake Forest, the football team, and the NFL, but his legacy lives on through the amazing work the fund is now doing in his honor . I dance to find a cure for cancer, why do you dance? . https://www.wakenshake.com/dancers/767 . 🎬: @brownbearvisuals

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Matt James lives with and runs a charity with Tyler Cameron

James, by trade, is a commercial real estate associate with CBRE based in New York. He became a budding “Bachelorette” contestant because of his close association and friendship with Cameron, also his roommate in the city. 

Together, James and Cameron also co-founded the non-profit ABC Food Tours in May 2018. According to James’ LinkedIn page, this is the charity’s mission:

“ABC Food Tours is a food touring company that leads students on both food/fitness tours through NYC stopping at restaurants native to the area to taste their signature dishes and learn about their history. We partner with schools to provide tours for students that are directly affected by homelessness at no cost to them.”

Taco Tuesdayyy 🌮🌮 . Visit @abcfoodtours to message us any community centers, schools, hospitals, or shelters that we can direct supplies for students as well as those on the front line across the country 🙌🏽 . Feed | Educate | Giveback

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Matt James didn’t win over Clare Crawley

Given that James is on “The Bachelor,” it’s a guarantee that he won’t be the winner of Crawley’s unfinished “Bachelorette” season. There already is evidence that he wasn’t a match for the 38-year-old.

Crawley indirectly called out James on Twitter for being on the show only to make himself famous vs. being a legitimate suitor for her.

“If you are doing interviews and creating Cameo accounts before you are even on my season… you are in it for the wrong reasons… #dontwasteyourtime,” she wrote.

Per E! News, it prompted James to indirectly reply to Crawley on a Instagram story, saying that he’s using the Cameo app with the intention of a different charity — raising money for coronavirus relief via the Robin Hood Foundation. If James wasn’t a serious suitor, he likely wouldn’t have agreed to also star in “The Bachelor.”

Matt James is the second former NFL player to lead to show in three seasons

Colton Underwood, who played tight end at Illinois State before some camp opportunities with the Chargers, Eagles and Raiders, was “The Bachelor” lead in Season 24 after coming up short in “The Bachelorette” Season 14. Underwood ended up with Cassie Randolph last March, but they just announced their breakup in late May. 

The ratings for “The Bachelor” have been on the decline for a while, but James, with his ties to Cameron, is bound to be a great lead with whom to create a viewership bounce-back, especially after fans of the two shows might be denied a “Bachelorette” conclusion in 2020.

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