Patience, hard work paying off for ASU's Gary ChambersPosted: Updated:
Good things come to those who wait. Better things come to those who work hard and take them.
Just ask Arizona State wide receiver Gary Chambers.
Chambers was a member of the 2011 recruiting class, the final group brought in by former ASU head coach Dennis Erickson. During that first year, Chambers ultimately redshirted, but with that season's top three wide receivers all graduating, the future seemed bright.
Things suddenly changed when Erickson and his staff were fired that December.
Todd Graham then took over the program, with new offensive coordinator Mike Norvell bringing in his own scheme. As the new regime re-shaped the program, Chambers struggled to find a place in the offense. Chambers saw action in just nine total games over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, primarily on special teams.
Disappointment and frustration were natural, but Chambers let those setbacks become the fuel to work harder.
"There was a little (frustration)," Chambers said. "We all feel like we can come in and play. My situation was a little different from others, with the coaching change and me already being here and having to adapt to that. It's just believing, having faith, and working. Work, grind, and try to improve every single day by doing the little things right. I knew that everything would work out in the end."
As he worked, he also learned and matured. Slowly but surely he progressed, and by the time last year's spring camp began, Chambers was ready to make a long-awaited impact.
"I think I learned more from the seasons that I wasn't playing than I did from the season I played," said Chambers. "By the time I got to that point, I felt like I was ready to get out onto the field and do what it takes to help my team out."
The light at the end of the tunnel began to shine last year. After waiting three long years to make his first reception, Chambers made his initial catch count when he caught an eight-yard touchdown in the first quarter of the season opener against Weber State.
"I prepared so much. I was thankful and blessed to get the opportunity," said Chambers of that touchdown, ASU's first of the season. "It was an exciting moment, one I'll definitely remember, and hopefully I can keep making more."
Chambers eventually became a regular part of the wide receiver rotation in 2014, playing in all 13 games, including five starts. On the year, he made 10 receptions for 204 yards, and his 20.4 yards-per-reception as the top mark on the team.
"It takes a lot, that's the thing you realize when you are finally out there," Chambers said of last season. "Everybody feels like they can come in and play right away, and we all feel like we have the capabilities. But there are a lot of little details and things to fine tune."
Finally with some on-field experience under his belt, Chambers approached this spring with confidence and a renewed drive.
"Being a senior, everything is winding down, so it's having that hunger and staying focused," said Chambers. "Speed, physicality, finish, those are the things we need to work on every single day. It only takes one time to not execute for things to go wrong. It's grinding every single play and every single rep. We've been making it a big focus all through spring."
The 6-foot-4, 211-pound Chambers believes that he brings a multitude of skills to this year's offense, giving Norvell a variety of ways to utilize his blend of size and speed.
"Physicality. Intelligence. Versatility," Chambers said. "I definitely have the playbook down. I think I can move around and make plays from different plays in our offense, or just be anywhere I am needed. Whether it's blocking for our backs or running a dummy route to try and get somebody else open, I feel like I can get around and do a lot of stuff."
This year, Chambers will be relying heavily on those traits as he has become the elder statesman of a wide receiver group that has many questions to answer.
Jaelen Strong, the team's leading receiver in each of the last two seasons, left school early for the NFL. On the eve of spring practice, it was learned that Cam Smith, the team's top deep threat, would miss the season due to knee surgery. The leading returning receiver from last year, D.J. Foster, is moving to the position after three years at running back.
"We have a lot of young talent and have a lot to learn," said Chambers. "The talent is there. There is no drop off in skill, and there is no drop off in playmaking ability. I think we're definitely doing well, and we're going to keep trying to improve. By the time the season gets here, hopefully we have it all together."
Along with a new starting quarterback in Mike Bercovici, two new starting offensive tackles, and two true sophomores atop the running back depth chart, the Sun Devil offense will have a new look this fall. However, Chambers believes that it can certainly live up to the high-octane performances that fans have seen in recent years.
"We're definitely coming with something special," said Chambers. "We have a lot of talent here. Coach Norvell knows his stuff. Our coaching staff is extremely prepared. We're ready to go out and make plays."
With the start of his final season just months away, one of the driving forces for Chambers is closing out his collegiate career in front of his hometown fans. Chambers is a Glendale, Ariz. native, having played his high school football at Ironwood High School.
"It's huge, being from here, and having the opportunity to have my family here and have everyone come see me play," Chambers said. "To have this last year to go out with a bang is really important to me. Hopefully I can help make it to that next level and help the team get that national championship we're going for."
To reach that goal, Chambers is willing to do whatever it takes.
"I set the goal to be the best blocker I can be. I set the goal to help my team as much as possible. I want to be one of the guys that the team depends on. I want no doubt in my teammates' minds on whether I can get the job done."?