This past June I made my way to Chris Chambers Football Camp, as I do every summer. The skills camp is at Bedford in the morning and a very competitive 7on7 tournament is in the afternoon. I see a lot of players and renew friendships with many of the coaches that I see during the season. This year, former Bedford wide receiver, LJ Chambers (2011) and I talked for few minutes. For me, the chat was rewarding.
Actually, I first met LJ Chambers coming off his sophomore year at Bedford. Liked him, but he had limited speed and did not always concentrate on every pass. Strong hands and worked hard. Really did not care for his attitude, but that happens at times. People do not care for my attitude at times, either. Plus, the fact that LJ came thru the grades with people comparing him to his cousin, Chris Chambers, did not help his attitude.
Chris Chambers has always been one of my favorites. "All-Ohio" in football and basketball. State 400 meter champ his senior year at Bedford.Went on to big time success at Wisconsin. First round draft choice of the Miami Dolphins. Retired, last year as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Ten years in the NFL. Like I said, he has always a favorite of mine. Of course, I rated him the top receiver in Ohio back in 1996. The Buckeyes would not let him attempt to play two sports at OSU.
Next, along comes cousin LJ. Big shoes to fill. LJ was not a consistent ball catcher. Shades of being good, but not consistent. Needed to improve his 40 speed. Raw Talent training had him at 4.5 once, but there was a story on that. His biggest battle was in the classroom. As he told me, he never listen to people who stressed improvement in the classroom. Result- academically he did not qualify for a scholarship. LJ decided to spend time at the University of Akron to get his academics healthy.
The first year at the University of Akron was all academics and no football. Last year, he started getting some playing time after the third game. Last spring, he caught 5 balls for 65 yards. Now he is a consistent 4.6 guy. 4.6 on 6'0-200 frame. Still considered a "preferred walk-on," but, hopefully that will change this fall.
Academically, he earned a 3.0 this past quarter and his overall GPA is a 2.8. Majoring in the sports medicine program. Eventually, he would like to own and operate a sports training facility. Of course, his dad will have to involved.
I asked him what caused the turn-a-round? What opened his eyes? He said that now he has a deep "appreciation of the game." He understands the commitment to be made and the results that are possible. He went to say that he also sees the "big picture," and understands what it takes. I will add that he was a lot easier to talk with at Bedford back in June.
LJ's advice - "Listen to what the quality people are trying to tell you about studying." Avoid the "noise." Make academics as important as football. When I asked him advice more specific to young people, his first comment was " have a strong faith in God." With that that, I
he believes, comes a strong faith in yourself and what you are about.
Every year, I evaluate players who have all of the God-given athletic talent available. Natural ability. When they walk on the field, they believe it is all about them. I have found that some of the "gifted" athletes that extra toughness or self discipline. They abuse that talent and do not do the "extra" on the field or in the classroom. They use the "blame game." You know, "not my fault. Poor coaching, bad teachers, and a lousy team." Every year at every level of sports this happens, and some athletes go into the "dumper," never to climb out again.
For LJ Chambers hard in the classroom and on the football field is paying off. As I tell parents all of the time, " The light will come on." Hopefully, that "light" stays on 24/7 for LJ. An appreciation of not only football, but life in general can make all of the difference. Chris Chambers who?