Catching Up With Gabriel Chambers.
In 2010, Jacksonville State probably had its best signing class in school history. There were several elite players in the group, including Coty Blanchard (Mr. Football in Alabama), highly rated offensive linemen Tristan Hardin and Preston Hatcher, JUCO All Stars Marquis George and Brannon Byrd, speedster Jeremy Nicholson and Mr. Mississippi football, Tig Barksdale. All of these players are either contributing right now or redshirting. However, one of the brightest stars of the 2010 class was Gabriel Chambers, a wide receiver from Cherokee County high school in Centre, Alabama. Unfortunately, because of NCAA clearinghouse issues, Chambers is not eligible this year and cannot practice with the team. However, he is enrolled at JSU and working hard for next year.
Gamecock fans have a lot to look forward to when Chambers is eligible to play in 2011. “Touchdown” or “Country” as he is known to friends, was part of the 2009 Cherokee County state championship team and put up some mind boggling stats. He had almost 1200 receiving yards, combined with over 190 rushing yards on just ll carries. His gridiron performance led to several post-season honors, including All-State, “Dirty Dozen” and being a member of Alabama’s team in an elite 7 on 7 competition. Chambers also excelled in track, finishing second in the State in the 100 meter dash in Class 4A. Coach Fran Blanchard described Chambers as a player that “has the potential to score on almost every play.”
Chambers took a break from his studies and his self-directed workouts to talk to Gamecockillustrated.com about his recruitment, first year at JSU and goals for the future:
Q: What is your preferred nickname:
A: My main two nicknames are “Country” and “Touchdown.”
Q: Who gave you the nickname Touchdown?
A: Coach Fran [Blanchard] always called me Touchdown. He coached me since I was little.
Q: Has it pretty much always been Coty at QB and you at receiver?
A: Basically, . . . [aside from a short time when Chambers played running back] its been all years him being quarterback and I’ve been receiver.
Q: Who is faster you or Coty?
A: [Laughing] Coty might have me. I used to run a 4.3, now I’m down to a 4.37. I’m trying to knock it down though.
Q: Why do you think your time has gone up just a bit?
A: I’m training hard every day, but I’m not able to practice every day. I’m just not consistent right now. On a bad day, . . . I will run like a 4.42, but on a good day I will run [in the 4.3s].
Q: You were part of an Elite 7 on 7 Team representing Alabama. Tell us about some of the guys you played against in that?
A: Da’ Rick Rogers from Calhoun, Georgia [UT player] and Solomon Patton [Florida]. . . . We actually had only about three days to practice and [then we] went to Florida. It was a lot of talented receivers. I was put to the test because they were taller than me. Da’ Rick is like 6-3 and I am only 5-8 so I had to prove that I could still do the same stuff he could do even though he is taller than me.
Q: How did you match up with Da’ Rick?
A: I matched up pretty good. The only thing he has me on is the body size . . . and the height.
Q: Lets talk about your recruitment to Jacksonville State. Who are some other schools that recruited you?
A: Arkansas State. . . . I just jumped on them first, but JSU has always been there for me. My family went to JSU. . . . My top three came down to JSU, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee.
Q: What Coach recruited you to Jacksonville State?
A: Coach Ogle was on me the most. But, Coach Wannebo, Coach Letson and Coach Crowe [also recruited me] . . . . During the recruiting stage, all of the coaches were right there showing me and Coty support.
Q: Are you excited to work with Gamecocks’ receivers coach, Matt Wannebo?
A: I am blessed to get to work with Coach Wannebo. . . I still get to learn something every time I talk with him.
Q: How do you like Jacksonville State so far?
A: I love it. . . . Everybody here knows me. If someone sees me walking, I will hear someone say “Country” and I just throw my hand up!
Q: I am sure it is frustrating sitting out this year. What do you do on gameday?
A: I’m right there in the stands cheering the team on.
Q: What was it like to see your life long friend have such a great game at Ole Miss?
A: I grew up with Coty. I know when it’s crunch time he’s going to perform, he’s not going to back down. He was in this situation before, in the state championship game, down to the last minute, Coty made a tremendous play. Its just like he repeats things he’s already done, but just in a better way. He can do it [at] any level. . . I think he can do it on the next level too.
Q: We hear you made a great play in the State Championship game as well. Do you know what we are referring to?
A: [Yes, in the last minute of the game] We had just received a holding call [and it moved us back]. At the beginning of the play, I remember Coty was looking at me. When he looked at me a certain way, I know that he just wanted to chunk it and I was supposed to go out there and get it. I ran the fade route, it was not the best fade route I could run, . . . [the player on the other team grabbed the ball] but I knew I had to do it for my team . . . so I just took the ball from him and I kept my foot in bounds. That play set Coty up for the touchdown.
Q: How excited have you been about the Gamecocks’ success this year?
A: I’m excited, but its also killing me because I’m supposed to be out there. . . . But, maybe it’s a good thing I’m sitting out because I have a chance to get faster, stronger and bigger.
Q: Tell us what you do since you are not permitted to practice with the team this year?
A: I am learning the playbook, so I can [compete] for the starting lineup next year. . . . When I’m not there, I work. I’m either in the weight room, doing some kind of conditioning drill, working on my speed, catching the ball. I have someone throw me like 100 balls a day. My cousin, Maurice Dupree [former Gamecock great] comes on Wednesdays and I throw and catch on Wednesday.
Q: What is Maurice doing now?
A: He just signed a contract to play Arena football.
Q: Has he given you advice on what it takes to succeed at the college level?
A: Coach Crowe told me . . . that Maurice said [that I was better than him]. That gave me expectations that I have to be better than him. I have set goals to break [some of Maurice’s records] at Jacksonville State.
Q: What is your style of play as a wide receiver?
A: My style of play is [to get the defender] leaning one way and go the opposite way. I try to outrun people, I don’t try to run people over that much [because of my size]. . . . I am constantly working to get better and better.
Q: I know you wore #4 in high school or you going to ask James Shaw to let you have it next year?
A: I had #4 since I was little. But, after something big like winning a state championship I was talking with my Mom and I was [saying] I think its time to give up [number 4]. I did pretty well with it in high school [winning a state championship]. So I think I’m going to switch to number 1.
Q: What are your personal goals for next year?
A: My first goal is to not let my teammates get down and to help them whenever they need my help. To be a leader. . . . Even though I will be a freshman next year, I don’t want to go downhill. I want to always go forwards, not go backwards. I want to set goals. I want to beat Maurice’s [records]. If I can’t get it my first year, I want to do it before I get out of college.
Q: Last question, who would win a game of 2 on 2 basketball if you and Coty, the Cherokee County boys, played Marques Ivory and Kevyn Cooper, the Warner Robins boys?
A: [Laughing] Definitely, its going to be me and Coty! We have been playing with each other since we were little. We know where each other is going to be on the court. Coty is a pure shooter so I can just pass it. . . . So, of course, me and Coty would would win.