Were it not for an intervention in his freshman year at Del Norte High School, Josh Eakes might not be playing college football today.
Eakes was interested in playing for the Warriors but missed many practices for the fall 2007 season while on a family vacation. Louie Nova, then the Del Norte football coach, saw Eakes in the high school hallways and implored him to join the squad anyway.
"It worked out for everybody in the end," Nova recalled.
Eakes played offensive lineman for the Warriors and matriculated to Shasta College in Redding for two years. He was recruited out of Shasta to play for the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan., where he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
"Josh was a very good offensive lineman," Nova said. He worked hard, took pride in what he did and obviously that has carried over not only to the JC level but the next level as well."
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Eakes has spent his fall camp competing for the Spires' starting right tackle job. Saint Mary, an NAIA school that belongs to the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, begins its season today against Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla.
"I'm just doing my best, doing what I can, giving my all to show what I can do out there," Eakes told the Triplicate. "I know I can get the job done day in and day out."
Eakes was among a small group of Del Norte football players who committed to play for Shasta out of high school. Others fell out with the football team, but he stayed on. Saint Mary offensive coordinator Jay Osborne noticed Eakes and began recruiting him.
Eakes said that a few other Midwestern schools were interested in him, but Saint Mary sold him in large part on its academics. He is currently studying business and has enjoyed the academic environment.
"When it comes down to it, school does come before football for me," Eakes said. "I got accustomed to the school really quick. Out here it was actually either the same or smaller classroom settings (than) at Shasta. I'll be in class with 25, 30 other students. Teachers are willing to work with you."
Eakes' comfort level extends to the Spires' offense, which he is working to pick up.
"I think I'm a great fit with the offense they run here," Eakes said. "They like to do a lot of screens - receiver screens, running backscreens, all that. It gets linemen running down the field, and that's what I've always been good at."
"The football team's going in the right direction. Before, we weren't finishing even .500 on the season. The last two years, they were getting better in that aspect. They had all the components they needed to go to the conference championship and get into the playoffs. I see that. It's a great team."
Eakes' hometown is listed on the Spires' roster as Frankfurt, Germany. (His mother, Gabriella Marcinek, is a native of Germany; his father served in the United States military.) He was born in Frankfurt and moved to the United States with his parents at age 3. While the family moved to several different states as he was growing up, Eakes played football sparingly before joining the Warriors.
Now, he is playing at a competitive level in college.
"Especially coming form California, I didn't expect to be living in Kansas," Eakes said. "I tell people and they're pretty shocked. It was really the most appealing school to me. I'm definitely loving the experience out here."
Reach Robert Husseman at firstname.lastname@example.org.