NFL ties a catalyst for Chandler football’s success - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

NFL ties a catalyst for Chandler football’s success

November 12th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
NFL ties a catalyst for Chandler football’s success
Sports and Recreation
9

By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

Ties to the National Football League run deep in the Chandler High School football program.

Several former players have gone on to play at the game’s highest level, including recent Super Bowl Champion Bryce Perkins, potential star defensive end Cam Jordan and newcomers N’Keal Harry and Chase Lucas, among others.

Many of those former players often come back to Chandler when in college and praise coaches for preparing them to play at a high level. Not only does that come from years of experience from head coach Rick Garretson, coordinator Collin Bottrill and longtime running backs coach Eric Richardson, but the assistants they have around them, some of them former NFL players.

“For me, growing up, I didn’t really know a lot of NFL guys,” Chandler passing game coordinator Chad Carpenter said. “You’ve got guys in here that have been there. Our players can look at these guys and see that it isn’t just about talent. It’s about hard work and putting the time in.”

Carpenter is one of four former NFL players on Chandler’s coaching staff. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals where he played three years as a wideout and one in Cleveland for the Browns before wrapping up his career.

He had stops at other local high schools in the East Valley before making his way to Chandler under former head coach Shaun Aguano, who is now the interim at Arizona State.

Carpenter has been part of Chandler football’s growth into a national power. He’s done it alongside other former professional players, including offensive line coach Leonard Davis.

“We take pride in what we do,” Davis said. “Just to be able to share something, share our life’s experience, game experience with the kids and then see them go out and do the job, you smile. When they don’t do it right, we coach them hard, but we still love ‘em.”

Davis was the No. 2 overall pick by the Cardinals in the 2001 draft. He spent six seasons in Arizona before playing four with the Cowboys where he was named to the Pro Bowl three times. He also played for the Lions and 49ers.

While in Detroit, he played alongside Dominic Raiola, a longtime center for the Lions who is now a coach alongside Davis for Chandler’s offensive line.

The two have brought a different dynamic to the Chandler front. The big men that make up the line have no choice but to be physical daily going up against one of the best defensive fronts in the state.

“We get to block one of the top defensive tackles in the country every day,” Raiola said. “It’s a great measuring stick for them. We also have to block the rest of the defense. I take great pride in saying that we practice against those guys.

“You wanna talk about battling in the trenches, they compete early in the week.”

The battles between Chandler’s first-team offense and defense can get intense at times. Major recruits on both sides of the ball bring out the best in every player. It’s the type of competition found in college and the NFL.

Sometimes, it involves chatter between coaches. Raiola and Davis are quick to let the defense know when their line has a good rep. Defensive line coach Kelvin Ingram, who spent time with the Saints and Seahawks before he became dominant in arena football, isn’t afraid to fire back.

The banter is friendly yet brings out a different level of intensity for both sides of the ball. Overall, it makes the entire team better on and off the field.

“It’s a way to keep our competitive juices going with each other,” Ingram said. “We don’t just teach the game of football, we teach the game of life with these guys. That’s one thing I like about having this group here.”

All four coaches know what it takes to be successful. They’ve added on to what Chandler had already started to become before their arrival.

Just having the presence of former professional athletes has helped raise the level of expectations from Chandler players. They’re coached hard and have lofty goals they are expected to meet. But more importantly, they are required to hold themselves to a higher level of accountability on and off the field.

Just like professionals.

“It’s a blessing to have four former NFL players coaching you now,” Dylan said. “You don’t see that very much. I think for us it’s about observing what they do and do everything you can to do what they did. It’s really just about going to change my life. It would be a fun journey.”

Chandler junior safety Kennedy Urlacher had a similar childhood. Growing up as the son of an NFL great in linebacker Brian Urlacher, he recalls the advice given to him by his father throughout his long career with the Chicago Bears.

Chandler’s success isn’t a secret. The Wolves have won five out of the last six state championships. Talented players were key to those state title wins, but the coaches around them played a major role, too.

This year’s team, however, has taken on a new mindset after losing to Saguaro last season in the Open Division state championship. The 2022 season is all about a “reset.” And the Wolves have done that so far.

It’s a mindset they have learned from their coaching staff. Players in the NFL are forced to bounce back from adversity on a weekly basis, whether it be a loss, overcoming a deficit or something in their personal lives. Chandler’s players now know how to do the same.

“We’re all really lucky to have them,” Urlacher said. “Just watching them and using them as examples has really helped all of us as football players and people.”

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