During his career at Virginia Tech, strong safety Kam Chancellor was notorious for setting the tone for a game with crushing blows to opposing running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. His ability to fill gaps and make impact plays against the run is what enabled him to garner attention from NFL scouts. However, his challenges when asked to defend the “deep third” of the field were well chronicled, and caused scouts to question his athleticism. When asked why scouts passed him over, Chancellor said,
“… My speed was very questionable they said.”
Chancellor measured in at six-foot-three, 231 pounds and did 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. Unfortunately he failed to quell scout’s concerns regarding his straight-line speed when it came to the 40-yard dash. Chancellor’s best time at the Combine was 4.69, which is considered sluggish by NFL standards at the safety position. Chancellor would improve upon his 40 time at his pro day by one tenth of a second, but it was not enough to make NFL teams feel more comfortable about his ability as an NFL safety.
Despite Chancellor’s display of instincts and physicality on a weekly basis as a safety at Virginia Tech, doubts surrounding his athleticism continued to mount. Many thought a move to outside linebacker was imminent. Chancellor said,
“I know a lot of people thought I was a ‘tweener’. Was I going to be a safety or a linebacker?”
Pete Carroll ended all speculation when he took a chance on him in the fifth round. With the selection of Chancellor, the die had been cast and the decision was made to keep him at strong safety.
While fully aware of Chancellor’s limitations, Carroll did something with his at the time, newly drafted strong safety that few NFL coaches do; he allowed him to play to his strengths. Far too often, NFL prospects are admonished for their versatility and labeled “tweeners”. Carroll has proven his worth as a coach by consistently using versatile players to his advantage. Chancellor recounted Carroll’s expectations of him at the advent of his career.
“… One thing Coach Carroll said when he first called me. He told me, ‘All we want you to bring is what you bring to the game, and that’s being physical. That’s all we ask. Nothing more, nothing less.’ I felt right at home and accepted what he asked of me.”
Chancellor has flourished as a member of the Seattle Seahawks as he has regularly lined up as the eighth man in the box to defend the run. He has also had success covering in short areas as well as vertically against larger wide receivers and tight ends down the seam.
Pairing Chancellor up with an instinctive and rangy free safety such as Earl Thomas has certainly helped him. With that said, the very things he did well at Virginia Tech are essentially the reasons he is one of the better safeties in the NFL today. His physicality, instincts and endless preparation have helped him reach his second Super Bowl of his five-year career.
Chancellor might have been overlooked during the draft process, but he summed it up best when he said,
“You can’t take the football out of a football player. … I was always a football player. …”
While Chancellor serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when scouting goes wrong, he should be credited for providing another example as to why versatility is king in the NFL. If more coaches simply set aside their egos and antiquated coaching ideas and did what Carroll did in this instance, there might very well be more gems like Kam Chancellor across multiple positions in the NFL.
More stories you might like