Sports

“Garner”-ing fame

OHS’s Ben Garner wins first three meets of cross country season

By Morgan Bryce

 

Opelika ObserverBen-Garner-200x300Robert Noles/Opelika Observer
Staff Reporter

The preseason number one runner for Alabama’s 6A schools, Opelika High’s cross country and track and field star Ben Garner has lived up to his preseason billing, garnering three top-place finishes in his first three cross country meets.
Despite the pressure that comes with the number one ranking, Garner said he has not let that phase him.
“Me and my coach talk about the meets like they’re a business trip. I’m up here to run, and I’m up here to win. There’s no in-between,” Garner said.
Garner’s passion for running comes mostly from his father, Trip, who ran track at Mississippi College.
“When I was younger, my dad would always have me and my siblings outside being active, and when I got older, he would have me run with him in local city races … so I got into running a while back,” Garner said.
After several years of juggling basketball, soccer and track, he made the decision to fully dedicate himself to running in his sophomore year.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but I chose running because I thought I could do it at the college level,” Garner said.
Since then, he has performed incredibly well, winning multiple meets and coming in second at last year’s state championships. In addition to cross country, Garner also competes in track and field during the spring, running the 800 and 1600 meter races. He said becoming a good to great runner has been a process.
“I’ve been able to drop a minute every year since I started, which is important, but all of this didn’t mentally click until last year. Eating right and getting a lot of rest are other important things I’ve also improved on since I started in my sophomore year,” Garner said. “My motivation for improving myself is based on my will to win, because I hate losing. Every morning, I wake up and think about some other guy across the state that is probably working today, so I gotta outwork him. That’s what goes through my head every morning.”
Another important aspect to Garner’s progression as a runner is how he evaluates himself and his performance, which he said was lacking last season.
“I got down on myself for losing last year, but it really was frustrating to lose because you run so much. This year I’m up to 900 miles since June 7 … and after you put in all this time and effort, I remember getting mad and thinking to myself after state last year, ‘how did you put all this time into it, and still place second,’ “ Garner said. “But this year is different. I’m the guy to beat, but I can’t think like that. My goal is now, whoever I’m racing against, I’m going to beat them.”
His improvements and accomplishments have not gone unnoticed, as schools like Samford, Auburn, South Alabama, Tennessee-Martin and Syracuse have expressed interest in him. Garner said that finding a team with a solid core of five or more talented runners is his main priority, and that he will begin making visits in the fall to the interested schools. He said he would like to be committed to a school during the early signing period, which is in November, but if necessary, will wait until the later signing period in April to make the best decision for his future.
Beyond college, Garner said one of his biggest dreams is to one day run for the U.S. team in the Olympics.
“Now that I’ve reached my goal of being one of the top in the state, I want to move it to the next level and run in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and hopefully win gold,” Garner said.
Off the course, he said he likes to spend what little free time he has with friends, or being involved at his church, First Baptist Opelika.
Amidst all the publicity and attention his running skills have given him, Garner acknowledges that his faith and God-given talents are the main reason for his success.
“After races that I win or do well in, I have a chance to be interviewed. Since I’m given that platform, I think to myself, ‘why not use it to spread my faith?’ If I’m given that platform, I believe I need to use it for His glory,” Garner said.
Fresh off his top-place finish at Saturday’s Spain Park Cross Country Invitational, Garner and his cross country teammates’ next event is next Saturday in Columbus, Ga., at the seventh annual Spencer High Greenwave Cross Country Invitational. The next local event for the team will be the Auburn Tiger Classic on Oct. 22 at Kiesel Park in Auburn.

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Hornets make history

Beauregard-State-Champs_NP20078-300x232Robert Noles/Opelika Observer

Beauregard defeats Wenonah for 5A state title

By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer
Staff Reporter

The Beauregard High School Hornets made history last Thursday night, winning not only their first state championship, but also bringing home Lee County’s first ever AHSAA championship.
Beauregard relied heavily on the legs of their star running back La’Damian Webb, who rushed 51 times for 359 yards and 5 touchdowns. His performance not only garnered him the game’s MVP award, but he broke the single-season touchdown-scoring record, posting 47 touchdowns this season.
Starting its program in 1963, it took nearly 30 seasons before Beauregard played in its first playoff game in 1993. Two years later, they won their first playoff game, a 20-0 win over Pike County.
In 2011, Beauregard notched its first 10-win season, and in the following year, clinched their first region title.
Coach Rob Carter took over for longtime Beauregard Coach Smitty Grider in 2014, and has guided Beauregard to a 31-5 record during his three-year tenure. This season’s 13-1 record, as well as school-record 666 points scored, are all historical marks for the program.

Henry Smith T Opelika’s first Burlsworth Award recipient

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By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer
Staff Reporter

Five years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears came to end for senior fullback Henry Smith T at the end of Opelika’s 21-16 loss to Ramsay in the 6A state championship game.
“It was a pretty tough loss … the sting is still there. What I’ll miss most about playing football is the camaraderie with my teammates and the relationships I’ve built,” Smith T said.
Smith T, the son of Opelika city councilman Dozier and pediatrician Sara, began playing football for Opelika city schools in the seventh grade. Over the past five seasons, he played a number of different positions on the gridiron, and this season, contributed as a second-string fullback and special teams player.
His years of sacrifice and dedication to the game he loved did not go unnoticed by his teammates and coaches. Smith T was nominated by OHS assistant coach Ben Landers for the Brandon Burlsworth Award, given to players who show exemplary character, work ethic and sportsmanship.
He said he was both shocked and honored by the recognition.
“Every day, I tried to work really hard and do my best. When I think about everyone else on the team, it really makes me feel very honored to receive this award because there are so many other hard-working guys on the team,” Henry said.
The OHS football team watched a movie earlier this year called “Greater,” which tells the inspiring and tragic story of Burlsworth.
“I was impressed with the kind of man he was and how hard he worked,” Henry said.
Burlsworth, a former All-American right guard for the University of Arkansas football team, began his Razorback career as a walk-on in 1994.
A majority of college football walk-on players never have the opportunity to suit up and play on Saturdays, but the dedicated Burlsworth set his sights from his first season to become a starter for the team he loved.
In his four years at Arkansas, Burlsworth received back-to-back first team All-SEC honors, named a first-team member of the 1998 All-American college football team, and earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
After a highly successful collegiate career, NFL scouts saw next-level talent in Burlsworth, and was a third-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts, who were planning to pencil him in as their starting right guard for the upcoming season.
Eleven days after being drafted, Burlsworth was involved in a fatal car crash.
Since his death, football camps, a national foundation and trophies and awards were named in his honor.
The Burlsworth Award, created in 2005, was at first limited to Arkansas-only high school players, but in honor of “Greater’s” release this year, became national award.
Henry is Opelika’s first Burlsworth Award winner, and OHS head football coach Brian Blackmon said no one else was more deserving of the recognition.
“Henry Smith T is a great kid from a great family. He was a tremendous student athlete and player, and embodies everything we want for a player in our program,” Blackmon said. “He was an integral part of our team, and is a very unselfish player. He was a great teammate, and somebody that deserved that kind of award.”
Smith T’s plans are to major in pre-med at Auburn University, and plans to apply the same tenacity and toughness in the classroom that he did on the football field.
“I’ve always told myself that if I ever fail, I never want it to be that I didn’t work hard. I always try to do my best in everything so that’ll never happen,” Henry said.

Webb makes history as first junior to be named Mr. Football

Beauregard-300x232Robert Noles/Opelika Observer

By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer
Staff Reporter

Following a record-breaking season which saw him rush for more than 3,200 yards and 47 touchdowns, Beauregard High School running back La’damian Webb added another bit of history to his resume last Wednesday, becoming the first junior ever to be named Alabama’s Mr. Football.
Webb attributed his success to having a strong, hard-working offensive line.
“They blocked hard … they go 100 percent every play and they stay working hard in the weight room,” Webb said.
Webb’s stellar season not only sparked the Hornets to the playoffs, but on a magical run to the 5A state championship game, in which they defeated Wenonah High School of Birmingham 33-13. In the game, Webb rushed 51 times for 359 yards and 5 TDs, breaking the single-season rushing-touchdown record and being named the game’s MVP.
“It felt good, and it was an amazing moment,” Webb said on winning the state championship.
The following weeks saw Webb receive numerous awards and recognitions, most notably being selected as a first-team member of Maxprep’s Junior All-American squad.
Webb was named Mr. Football during the Alabama Sports Writer’s Association Player of the Year luncheon last Wednesday, and also won the 5A Running Back of the Year award. In addition to being Mr. Football’s youngest winner, he is the first winner ever from Beaurgard, and first winner from Lee County in the award’s 35-year existence.
“It meant a lot, but it meant more for the community than it did it to me,” Webb said on receiving the award.
Beauregard Coach Rob Carter said Webb’s emergence this season even shattered his own expectations for the junior running back.
“I really thought coming in that he would have a solid year, but breaking the state record and that sort of thing was beyond my thoughts,” Carter said. “He’s a competitor. You put him in a situation where he’s got to compete against his fellow teammates, or guys from an opposing team, and you’ll get the best out of him.”
Topping his sensational junior campaign will be hard to beat, but Webb says staying healthy in his senior year will be crucial to both his and his team’s success.
“One thing is to stay healthy … but I’m going to play hard, and whatever comes, comes,” Webb said.
Schools like Indiana, Bowling Green, Iowa State and Troy have expressed interest in Webb, but Carter hinted that his star running back has the potential to play in the upper echelon of college football.
“You already got the top-five (power conference schools) with Indiana coming here, and subtle interest from other universities, which are picking up daily. I see him being successful at the collegiate level,” Carter said. “Staying well and healthful, you might even see him at the highest level, like the NFL … he’s that type of athlete.”

Black wins Mike Spain Character Award

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By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer
Staff Reporter

Opelika’s senior holder, wide receiver and special teams player Tristan Black was the winner of this year’s Mike Spain Character Award, an annual recognition given to the player whose on-and-off-the-field contributions expand past the gridiron and into their school and community.
The award’s namesake Mike Spain was a beloved history teacher in the Opelika school system for more than 30 years and was an avid supporter of Opelika athletics. In September 2005, Spain passed away from a two-year bout with cancer. Coach Brian Blackmon said Spain’s passion for the school, students and athletic programs was something he will always remember.
“Mike Spain loved our school, he loved our students and he loved all of our programs. He was a guy that, if you needed someone to work the gate at a track meet, he was there … if you needed somebody to just talk to a kid and encourage them, he was that guy,” Blackmon said. “He was very influential … and was a part of anything that went on here at the school.”
The winner of the Mike Spain Award is voted on by the Opelika coaching staff, and Blackmon said Black’s work ethic, big heart and motivation to give back played major factors in their decision to choose him.
“Tristan is a very hard worker and a consistent kid. He was always one of the first ones here and one of the last ones to leave,” Blackmon said. “He was very involved in the (Dominant Dawg) community service program, which challenges our kids to be more involved in the community. He was just a kid, with no matter what you challenged him to do, he does it with a joyful heart.”
Assistant football coach Ben Landers, who helps coordinate the Dominant Dawg program, said Black and other seniors were offered a myriad of community service opportunities. Events ranged from team members taking visits to Storybook Farm and working with mentally and physically disabled children, or helping set up events like the Think Pink Walk and Garden in the Park. Landers said Black was a heavy participant in the program, and said he constantly displayed humility and strong devotion while serving others.
“Whenever you’d ask him to get something done, he’d get it done. If he saw something that needed to be done, you wouldn’t have to ask him to do it. He’s wise beyond his years,” Landers said.
Black received the recognition during the team’s award banquet on Jan. 5, and said he thinks the honor reflects his strong work ethic and desire to give back.
“I think winning this award shows that I always try to do the right thing, I’m always going to work hard, and I’m going to give my all no matter where I am, whether it’s on the field or in the classroom,” Black said.
Black said his favorite moments from playing at Opelika include the three-year winning streak against archrival Auburn, and the Bulldogs’ run to a state championship game. However, he said some of his favorite memories are from his football days are some of the volunteer projects that he participated in, which he said were eye-opening experiences.
“It really humbles you … it really shows how blessed you are and how big of a platform you have in the community. After a while, you come to realize you’re not just playing for yourself – you’re playing for those who aren’t able to do it or aren’t blessed with the gifts that you are,” Black said.
Black said his plans are to enjoy the rest of his senior year, and compete and succeed during track season. He will either attend Auburn or Troy this fall, pursuing a degree in accounting and sports management.

OHS’s Ben Garner leads indoor track team to second-straight state title

Ben-Garner-200x300Robert Noles/Opelika Observer

Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer
Staff Reporter

Two Homewood High School runners and 800 meters separated Opelika senior Ben Garner from victory in the 1,600 meters, a victory that would put his team in pole position for their second-straight state indoor track and field title during the AHSAA State Indoor Track and Field Championships Feb. 3 and 4.
Using only a minimal amount of energy at the race’s start, Garner watched several runners blaze ahead, waiting for the perfect time to make his charge to first.
“My goal was to make my move with 300 meters to go in the race … it’s a 200-meter track and when they ring a bell when you get to the final lap, that’s when everybody takes off. I knew that if I were in the lead before the bell, that I’d be in good shape and that I wouldn’t have to work around anybody on the last lap,” Garner said.
His plan worked to perfection, and propelled him ahead of the field to a two-second victory over second-place finisher Hunter Nails of South Side High School, and finished with a final time of 4:22.39.
This win, paired with his victory in Friday’s 3,200-meter race and teammate Will Boler’s triple jump victory, helped Opelika clinch the 6A state title, beating runner-up Homewood 89-73.
The odds of victory looked slim after an overall poor team showing Friday and the disqualification of the team’s number-one hurdler Antanavious Butler due to jersey issues, and Garner said he knew that he would have to push himself in order for his team to defend its title.
“After all that happened that day, we were like, ‘we gotta show up on Saturday. You got to score here, you got to score there … Ben we need you in the mile,’’’ Garner said. “I told myself before the weekend, ‘I’m going to win the mile.’ But I realized Friday night that I had to win the mile in order for us to win.”
Opelika’s chances of making noise at state this year looked bleak after the graduation of star hurdler Kacey Spinks and All-American runner Nate Huggins from last year’s team, but Garner, Boler and fellow senior Braden Holloway picked up where they left off, and performed far better than Garner could even have imagined.
“Going in, I didn’t think we’d be that good, and then we came out did really good in all our meets … it really surprised me,” Garner said.
Championship celebrations did not last long, however, as Garner and his teammates hit the ground running the next day, putting in long mileage in preparation for the spring’s outdoor track season.
Garner’s outdoor track specialties are the 3,200, 1,600 and 800 meters, and said he hopes to add on to his already illustrious Opelika career in his final track season.
“My goals for this spring season are just to improve timewise … win state and win the triple crown, which is to win the 3,200, 1,600 and 800 meters,” Garner said.
With his final season ahead and graduation looming in May, Garner said he has had time to think about the legacy he will leave behind, which includes four track and field titles, as well as last year’s preseason 6A Runner of the Year recognition, but hopes people know him best for his strong work ethic and leadership by example.
“I’ve been thinking about this (his legacy) for a long time, and I hope when people talk about me, they say that I led by example. That’s a big thing to me,” Garner said. “Instead of yelling or screaming if somebody’s not doing something right, I think it makes a bigger impact if kids see me working … it makes a different input I think. I think my ultimate gift was leading by example, where I didn’t have to use my words, but people watched what I did and that motivated them to do better.”
Following his graduation in May, Garner will continue competing and preparing for his collegiate cross country and track and field career at Samford University in Birmingham.

New OHS track nearing completion

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By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer

Staff Reporter

After a nearly four-month long construction process, the new track at Opelika High School is close to completion, and track and field coach Jimmy Johnson said he hopes that it will be ready for use during the coming outdoor track and field season.
Ongoing construction marooned athletes for parts of the indoor track and field season earlier this year, as coach Jimmy Johnson had to coordinate practices for his players between OHS’s football field and Beauregard High School’s track.
“Actually having our home back where we’ve been able to bring all those championships home and being able to go to our own place and practice, that will be big for us,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the new track, which cost approximately $1.7 million to construct, boasts nine lines down the 100-meter straight, and eight around its curve. The track also offers space for steeplecrest races, making it the first in the state capable of hosting this event.
The previous track, built in 1974, was antiquated, according to Opelika City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors. Chock full of potholes and repaved segments, the aging track also fell two lanes short of the AHSAA’s current mandate of eight running lanes, which all proved to be major factors in the school’s decision to replace it.
“What people don’t realize about tracks is that they’re like a road. Its got drainage under it and different things … it was just getting where when we’d repair it, sometimes just 150 – 200 feet, it was $70,000 to $80,000. To have put a completely new surface on would have cost $500,000 … that would have been a foolish thing to do,” Neighbors said. “It was just to a point where it wasn’t feasible to keep repairing it and the repairs were not lasting.”
Neighbors said the school selected Beynon Sports Surfaces of Hunter Valley, Md., to construct the track, after seeing an example of their work, the Hutsell-Rosen Track at Auburn University.
“It’s a surface that both will be good to practice and compete on … and it’s going to be a very fast track,” Johnson said.
Outdoor track and field seasons begins this month, and Johnson said there is a possibility of hosting a meet sometime in April. With the team gunning for its third-straight outdoor track and field title this season, Johnson said he wants there to be a big turnout to support his players.
“Hopefully, when the track opens, everybody will come out and support these kids. They’ve been doing a lot of great things for the community, and bringing us back-to-back championships,” Johnson said. “(With the new track) we’re going to get better. We’re at the top, but I think we’re going to be able to surpass what we’ve been able to do.”

Former Predators player Joe Vines signs with Brazilian football team

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By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer

Staff Reporter

Running, catching, tackling and returning kickoffs and punts are just a few of the ways Jerquin ‘Joe’ Vines contributes on the gridiron.
A breakout for the East Alabama Predators last season, Vines is now pursuing an opportunity to advance his football career, signing in January with the Sorriso Hornets of Brazil, who are affiliated with the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol Americano.
Vines, a 2013 Lafayette High School graduate, played wide receiver for both Tennessee Tech and Alabama State before personal issues ended his college football career in 2014.
An abbreviated collegiate career did not deter him from his lifelong dream of playing professional football. Vines briefly flirted with the idea of playing for the Detroit Cougars of the Rivals Football League, but decided to return back to the area to play for the Opelika-based East Alabama Predators of the Gridiron Developmental Football League.
After a nearly two-year football hiatus, Vines said the opportunity to suit up for the Predators opening game last year helped him know he had made the right decision.
“It felt great. Since I was little, that’s been the only thing that I looked up to was becoming a professional football player,” Vines said. “And with me not being able to play in a while and then play in that first game, it felt like … I wouldn’t quite say overwhelmed, but it was breathtaking.”
Taking snaps at running back, receiver and special teams, Vines amassed more than 900 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns in six games.
In the offseason, Vines began contacting NFL and CFL teams, and smaller teams in leagues across Europe, with a goal of advancing his football career.
He joined a website, http://www.europlayers.com, which allowed him to create a profile to market himself to teams around the world.
Vines received the offer in January, and said the opportunity was one he could not pass up.
“It was an easy decision,” Vines said of his decision to play in Brazil. “… personally, I’ve been going through a lot lately and my mind’s been full … I just felt like I needed to get away, and if the opportunity presented itself, I would take it. It’s a getaway and it’s doing something that I love … playing football.”
Losing him is a blow to the Predators offense, but offensive line coach Michael Martin said that Vines’ talent will translate to success at the next level.
“He’s very, very athletic … he can play defensive back or wide receiver for us, wildcat quarterback, punt return, kickoff return – he was a well-rounded athlete. We’ll miss him … he’s a real good leader and motivator … he brings the positivity to the offense and to the team,” Martin said.
Vines will move to Brazil this month, and will begin competing later in the month for the team’s first of the league’s two annual seasons. The two-year deal Vines inked with the Hornets includes flights, meals, gym membership and monthly salary.
The first season, which runs from March to June, Vines said he will play strictly on offense and special teams, and said he will add defensive back to his duties in the second season, which lasts from July to December.
Vines’ ultimate goal is to play on Sundays, but for now, his focus is on improving his game in Brazil and sharing his football experience and wisdom with his teammates.
“My first thing is to try and spread my knowledge of football that I know to those guys, and if there’s any weakness in my game, I hope that they can expose it, but I know too what I can work on to improve myself as a player.”
To keep up with Vines’ football career, follow his fan page on Facebook “Jerquin – Joe Vines.”

Opelika man runs marathons at 81

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By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer
Staff Reporter

Many sports figures showcase their athleticism at a young age, becoming known as prodigies in their respective sports. Tiger Woods, one of golf’s all-time greats, first swung a golf club at two years old, and gold-winning Olympic snowboarder Shaun White hit the slopes at six.
But for Opelika resident Bob Fucci, it took 50 years to discover his passion: long-distance running.
Beginning as a simple bet with a friend to see who could finish first in a race around a golf course, Fucci said it was the physically demanding nature of running that hooked him.
“It was that challenge … it was overcoming the little bit of pain and the little bit of exerting yourself that really got me into running,” Fucci said.
Shortly after, Fucci began competing in five and 10-kilometer races, like the Peach Tree Road Race in Atlanta.
Eventually, as his conditioning improved and running knowledge grew, Fucci said he realized it was time to take the next step in his running career.
“You’d travel somewhere and run for a half-hour or hour for the short race … it seemed like I wanted more. So, I started looking for half and full marathons to compete in,” Fucci noted.
Running marathons in both the U.S. and Europe, Fucci set a goal of one day running in the Boston Marathon, the world’s largest race.
To be eligible to compete in the Boston Marathon, runners must run a certain time in a qualifying race. After three attempts, Fucci broke through and qualified for the Boston Marathon twice, running it in both 1990 and 1996.
Perhaps his most noteworthy marathoning performance was achieved at the 1991 New York City Marathon, where he finished first among males from Alabama.
“When we were in New York, after the marathon, the USA Today came out … I remember being in a hotel room and opening up the paper,” Fucci said. “They list the finishers and their states in (alphabetical) order, and so Alabama was the first state. The first name on the list was Bob Fucci … that was exciting.”
Twenty-six years and many races later, Fucci is still competing at 81 years old. His wife Linda, who ran alongside him in marathons for many years, is no longer able to run because of health reasons, but still attends all his races, cheering on her husband.
“She’s my best cheerleader,” Fucci noted.
Utilizing a three-day training schedule, Fucci said he still enjoys the competition that running offers, especially comparing his times to younger runners, as well as traveling with Linda. Recently returned from a race in Modena, Italy, he said he is preparing for his next run in a few weeks in Nashville, Tenn.
“I plan to keep doing this as long as I can,” Fucci said.

Opelika’s RaKavius Chambers receives two national recognitions

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By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer

Staff Reporter

Paving the way for an offense that rushed for more than 3,000 yards last season, Opelika High School senior, former left tackle and Duke University football signee RaKavius Chambers has recently received two national recognitions for his contributions off the gridiron.
Chambers was named the Section 3 recipient of the National High School Heart of the Arts Award for his involvement in the school’s symphonic band, show choir and theatre troupe, and winner of the 26th annual Franklin D. Watkins Award for the nation’s top black scholar athlete. He said he hopes these recognitions inspire and remind others that anything is possible.
“I hope I leave behind a legacy of hope, and students think when they see me, ‘if he can do it, so can I,’ … if this young black kid from Opelika can make it out of here and go to Duke University, and get all these different awards, I hope I can inspire other students to be the best they can possibly be,” Chambers said. “Whether it’s in the arts, or even the technical departments, and all the other clubs that Opelika offers, I just want to be a guy that they can look to and strive to be better than.”
Chambers, the son of former Auburn University defensive end Roderick Chambers, started competing in organized football in the seventh grade.
Always an offensive lineman, Chambers said his opportunity to showcase his blocking prowess came during a pivotal stretch of the 2015 edition of the Opelika-Auburn rivalry, following an injury to starting right tackle Bryant Norrell.
“I was terrified, because it was the Auburn game, and you didn’t want to mess up anything and be sure that the seniors get their last win. But as soon as I started playing, I realized it was time to relax and get the job done,” Chambers said.
His performance cemented him as a starter, and the following week, he was shuffled to the left tackle spot, where he would make a name for himself during the next two seasons.
Chambers said he began receiving scholarship offers at the end of his sophomore year from Division I schools like Bowling Green, Minnesota and University of Alabama-Birmingham.
However, only two schools were on Chambers’ radar: Auburn and Duke.
After attending a medical camp on Duke’s campus last summer and witnessing a live, open-heart operation in person, he said he knew he wanted to pursue a medical career, and Duke’s elite medical school program would play a major factor in where he committed.  That, paired with Duke’s rising prominence in the college football landscape, made signing with Duke an easy decision, according to Chambers.
Chambers said he has a goal of playing in the NFL, but plans to pursue a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon to save lives.
Leaving his beloved school and hometown to go to Durham, N.C., will be difficult, but he is forever grateful for Opelika and its lasting impact on his life.
“I’m going to miss the family atmosphere and knowing everybody’s name … we have some good teachers, a good community … and it’s an amazing place that I’m proud of and to call home,” Chambers said.