If you can literally switch positions in the first game of your season and by switching positions, I mean go from playing offense to defense, there’s no question you’re a talented and superior athlete.
And that’s been the story of James Chandless’ senior season for the Montana State University-Northern football team.
Chandless began his career and has spent the last three seasons as Northern’s starting fullback, an often unheralded by important position. From the time Chandless arrived at Northern from Marysville, Calif., he’s been a short-yardage specialist. If the Lights needed a first down in short yardage, he p
icked it up. If Northern need to pound the rock in from the goal line, Chandless usually got the call. In short, he’s been an impact player for the Lights since the first day he arrived on campus.
But 2012 has been different for the 5-11, 225-pound bulldozer. After an injury to starting middle linebacker Jared Rohrback, Chandless jumped over to defense and has again had a huge impact for the Lights. In his last three games, Chandless is averaging a team-high 11 tackles per outing, and he’s recorded a team-high 12 tackles twice already.
And though any transition like the one Chandless is taking on is never easy, he’s perfectly comfortable with it and is making the most out of it during his final year as a Light.
Here’s five questions with Northern’s fullback turned linebacker as he prepares to play in his final Homecoming Game, as the Lights take on Rocky Mountain Colleg on Saturday afternoon.
HDN: The move to linebacker, how has it gone for you?
Chandless: “I played fullback for three years, but they had me do some linebacker work last spring, and I played linebacker all through high school. So the change hasn’t been too difficult. But at the start of the season, I was still expecting to play fullback, and then when Jared (Rohrback) got hurt, I moved over. I’ve just tried to go out and do the best I can and get better every game.”
HDN: Having played on both sides of the ball, what’s your preference?
Chandless: “It doesn’t matter at all to me. Wherever I can go out and have the biggest impact, wherever I can best help the team, that’s where I want to be.”
HDN: The defense has been playing really well this season. What’s the keys to that?
Chandless: “I think you have to give a lot of credit to our defensive line. We lost will Andrews and you can’t replace him, but we also had a lot of returners up there and they’ve been really stepping up this season. I think we also have a lot of guys back in the secondary who have played a lot and they’ve been doing a great job. Guys are just stepping up on defense.”
HDN: This week is homecoming, how’s it different?
Chandless: “As far as the game goes, it’s just the next game for us. We take it one week at a time. Rocky is coming in here and they’ve been having a good season and it’s going to be a tough game.”
HDN: You have three home games left in your career. What’s your experience as a Light been like?
Chandless: “It’s been a great experience, getting to play college football is something not a lot of guys get to do. It’s been great to come up here to Montana from California and go to school and play for Northern. I’ve met a lot of great guys and made good friends. But the season is far from over. I still think we have a great team and we have a shot to do some great things still this season.”