By BEN JOHNSON
Ethan James' time had come. Phillip Boyd's final game as Northeastern State's left tackle was in the RiverHawks' season-ending loss to Minnesota State-Mankato in the Mineral Water Bowl in 2011.
James was prepped and ready to go, becoming quarterback Johnny Deaton's favorite offensive lineman — the one protecting his blind side.
Then, everything changed once August rolled around last year. Former Oklahoma State offensive lineman Michael Bowie transferred to NSU, where he instantly became the RiverHawks' new left tackle.
But what about James? He took the addition in stride and opted to play right tackle during his sophomore campaign.
"Whatever (Northeastern State head coach Kenny Evans) wants me to do, I'll do it," James said. "(NSU offensive line coach Mike) Barela said (Bowie) was a better prospect for left tackle, and I agreed with him. So I just went ahead and slid right on over."
That immediately translated into horrifying news for opposing defensive lines. By the end of NSU's season in 2012, the RiverHawks ranked second in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in sacks allowed, giving up only 11 and finishing only one off the pace of league leader Washburn.
But with the 2013 season only weeks away and Bowie now in Seattle beginning in professional career, James is on the move again. Back to the position he thought he was going to play all along.
"Bowie was really good, so it's going to be hard to fill his shoes," said James, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior from Gore who started all 10 games last season. "But I think I can do it."
Dishing out high praise for James was Evans, saying that the talent threshold between James and Bowie is quite minimal.
"There's not much difference," Evans said. "Size-wise, they're about the same. Bowie may have had better feet, but Ethan has worked extremely hard on his feet.
"Ethan can be as good as he wants to be, and he's a guy who has a chance to play at the next level if he'll put his mind to doing that."
Speaking of footwork, James said that's an area that Bowie mentored him in.
"His footwork is really good," James said of Bowie, who is projected to be a backup at right tackle for the Seahawks this season.
"He didn't hardly take a false step, and when he did he recovered really well. I try to do the same thing."
Now that the transition from one side of the line to the other is complete, the question has to be asked: is there more pressure that comes along with playing left tackle?
"Yeah, there is," James said, "but, it's really how you take it. There's the same amount of pressure on the right side, too. You still have to do your job, and the left is no different."