For players from outside of SEC country, their first visit to the South can be a shock to the system. Hailing from The Sunflower State, Austin Chambers entered the Nike Football Training Camp in Atlanta with a built-in excuse if he struggled against the size and speed of the region’s top talent.
He never needed it.
“I would be lying if I said there weren’t some freak athletes down there at the camp,” Chambers said, laughing. “I was the farthest guy from home. It was a lot of fun to go down there and see how I stacked up.”
Chambers was dominant in 2012, mauling opposing defensive linemen in the run and pass games. The 6-foot-5, now 297-pound offensive tackle led Shawnee Mission West to the Kansas Class 6A State Championship, garnering First Team All-League, All-State, and All-Metro honors along the way.
“Just competing, from a technique standpoint and going down the line, I don’t think you could see a difference,” he said when comparing himself to other linemen at the NFTC. “I did feel like I fit right in with all the offensive and defensive linemen down there. In the one-on-ones, I think I handled the speed rushers well.”
Well-aware he would be face a different class of athlete in Atlanta, the standout tackle believed his skills as a blocker would set him apart.
“Coach Callaghan is our offensive line coach,” Chambers said of his head coach. “All day, I saw offensive linemen opening up their hips. I just tried to focus on my technique, knowing that, if I did, I’d be able to perform. I felt I was prepared to compete and thrive in that atmosphere.”
The Kansas prospect couldn’t say enough about the coaching he received at the NFTC. He relished the opportunity to learn from someone that had played at the highest level.
“I can’t remember the offensive line coach’s name,” he said. “Just being able to listen to his pieces of advice, to hear it from a guy that had been in the NFL that knows what he’s talking about. From your attitude as an offensive lineman to your stance, it’s fun to be coached by a player like that.”
“I thought I did really well,” he said of his performance in the testing portion of the event. “For the medicine ball throw, I was in the 99th percentile in the nation. I think they said I had the longest throw in the camp. I was happy with my pro-agility, too.”
In addition to the numbers, Chambers came away from the NFTC with a new perspective on the millions of high school kids fighting for an opportunity to play Division I college football.
“I think the biggest thing was just seeing how many athletes there are that have the exact same dream I do,” he said, shaking his head. “Just seeing there are other athletes with the same ultimate goal, to play at the next level, and go on to the next level.”
After camping in Atlanta, Chambers says there is one thing that will stick with him every day as he continues to chase his dream.
“Never quit working, because there are 300 kids down in the South working if I’m not. When I went down to Georgia, that was something that hit me as a reality and a motivator to keep working hard and remind me why I love football so much.”