LARAMIE – While the No. 2 emblazoned on his blue practice jersey is the clearest sign of a new year, the smile that University of Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers wore on his face Tuesday afternoon tells more of a story than any sewn-on digits ever could.
Chambers, a redshirt sophomore, will be the first to admit his first three seasons as the Cowboys’ quarterback have not gone as planned. The California native has suffered season-ending injuries in each of his years under center. The latest – a broken left leg on the third play of the season opener at Nevada – was among the most gruesome and jarring.
So he needed to do something new, something bold. No. 12, the number Chambers has donned since he first got to Laramie, had to go. It had “bad juju,” he said. Chambers’ brother wore No. 2 growing up, and Chambers thought donning that number would be a nice tribute.
Even UW coach Craig Bohl was caught off guard when he saw his quarterback on the field at UW’s first spring practice of 2021.
“I didn’t know who the hell he was,” Bohl said. “He gave me a little switcheroo there. But if it makes him feel better, hell, I’m all for it.”
But Chambers has not been all smiles over the last few months. It actually got to a point where he contemplated whether football was still in life’s plan.
As a true freshman, Chambers broke his right leg. As a sophomore, he tore ligaments in his knee, causing him to miss the final five games of the 2019 season. Was this latest devastating blow to his career a sign?
“I went to a dark place. I just thought that football wasn’t for me,” Chambers said. “I’ve had so much fun playing football, (but) in college, three straight season-ending injuries, I went to a dark place, and I thought about it.”
But during UW’s first spring football practice since 2019, Chambers was smiling from ear to ear. In his first meeting with the media since the fall of 2020, the signal caller was visibly giddy. He looked like a kid in a candy store, a child eagerly awaiting Christmas morning. Chambers was glowing.
So what’s changed, other than his jersey? He got a little bit of help from his friends and family.
“With support from my family, my friends, my roommates, my teammates (I got back). I knew that football was for me, I knew that I could come back, and I can do this thing again,” Chambers said. “(I’ve) just got a good mindset now and some positive energy.”
Chambers has been the consummate winner since taking over as UW’s primary quarterback during his true freshman season in 2018. The passing stats won’t jump off the page – he’s completed less than 50% of his passes and thrown just 10 touchdowns in his career – but his ability as a runner and, more importantly, as a team leader, have separated him from the quarterback pack.
Chambers ran for 567 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019 before his injury. His most important statistic, though, is his 8-3 record as UW’s primary quarterback. Chambers’ competitive spirit is the stuff of legends, and losing him so early in the 2020 season set the Cowboys up behind the eight-ball for the remainder of the campaign. Redshirt freshman Levi Williams took over for Chambers following the injury and threw a single touchdown pass during the season.
The dark times in the recesses of Chambers’ mind lasted for longer than he would have liked. He spoke with his mother, who told him that, should he choose to stop playing, no one in the world would blame him, given his injury history.
After briefly considering hanging up his cleats, Chambers decided that wasn’t who he is and will ever be.
“That’s just not in my nature. I’m not a quitter. And when I set out to start things, I intend to finish them,” Chambers said.
In addition to getting his body right, Chambers is learning a new offense this spring following the departure of offensive coordinator Brent Vigen, now the head coach at Montana State.
Tim Polasek, most recently the offensive line coach at the University of Iowa and previously the offensive coordinator at North Dakota State, is now in charge of a UW offense that was stagnant more often than not last season. Chambers also has to compete with Williams; everyone is fighting for their spots in the spring, Bohl said.
That’s a lot of things for Chambers to balance, particularly coming off a serious injury. But it’s a burden Chambers is more than happy to bear.
He’s just happy to get another chance to do so.
“I don’t remember the last time I was this excited to play football. I guess that’ll do it to you, the lack of football that you play will make you really excited to play football again,” Chambers said. “It’s truly exciting. I knew 2021 was going to be different from 2020, and I’m just really excited and fortunate to play football again.”
Hoyland earns scholarship
John Hoyland, the UW kicker who dazzled as a no-name walk-on freshman for the Cowboys last season, has been placed on scholarship, Bohl said in a news release Tuesday.
Hoyland, a Football Writers Association of America freshman All-American in 2020, made 13 of his 14 field goal tries and all 16 of his extra point attempts. The Colorado native was thrust into the lineup before the opener at Nevada after Luke Glassock suffered a groin injury and never relinquished the role.
Players out for spring
Seven Cowboys will not participate in spring practice as they rehab from injuries: redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole, redshirt freshman wide receiver Alex Brown, redshirt junior defensive tackle Ravontae Holt, redshirt sophomore tight end Jackson Marcotte, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Mason Schultz, freshman defensive end Braden Siders and freshman safety Keshaun Taylor.
Defensive lineman Victor Jones, who was suspended in late November for a violation of team rules, is enrolled in online classes at UW, but is currently back home in California, Bohl told reporters Tuesday.
“We’ll see how he does academically,” Bohl said.