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HERALD DYNAMITE DOZEN PROFILE: Knockout Punch -- Bryan Chamberlain, Monroe

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ALBANY -- They call him "Big Show,'' but it has nothing to do with Hollywood or the movies. It's just the way Bryan Chamberlain carries himself, a young man who has self-proclaimed swag, a fashion plate with panache and style.

But Chamberlain's story is the stuff of movies and legends -- too cliche to be true, too Hollywood scripted to be real.

One of the best tales this side of Blind Side is taking place at Monroe High, where Chamberlain has emerged as one of the top offensive linemen in Georgia, stepping out of oblivion and into the football spotlight.

No, he didn't come out of nowhere. He came from the basketball court.

"When we were growing up he never wanted to play football,'' said Monroe runningback Dominique Reid, who is Chamberlain's cousin. "He just didn't like it at all. I kept talking to him about playing football but he never did.''

Chamberlain, who was courted by Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, and a long list of others before he committed to Georgia Tech, simply had no time for football.

Then his life flipped upside down one day when a scene right out of a movie changed everything. Chamberlain was a freshman at Monroe and a member of the basketball team. He was at basketball practice when Monroe's offensive line coach Travis Lockhart showed up.

"He had been talking to me at school about coming out for the football team,'' Chamberlain said. "I just told him no, I don't want to play football. Then he comes to my basketball practice one day. He's stalking me. He just came out of nowhere.''

Lockhart sat in the stands and watched practice, then talked to Monroe's basketball coach Marquis Davis.

Lockhart wanted to know if Chamberlain's parents picked him up, and when Davis said yes they did, Lockhart waited to meet Chamberlain's mother, Tanya Chamberlain. He made her a promise that day.

"He told my mom if she turned me over to him and let me play football that he promised her that I would get a college scholarship,'' Chamberlain said.

Tanya Chamberlain took the proposal as seriously as anyone. During voluntary workouts that summer, Bryan told her he didn't feel like going to practice one day.

"She told me if I didn't go to practice not to come home,'' Chamberlain said.

The next autumn, Chamberlain, a sophomore, made his first start on the varsity football team. He had 10 pancake blocks in that game.

He hasn't been back on the basketball court since.

"That's one you don't mind losing. I don't mind it at all,'' Davis said. "Especially when I saw him excel in football. I knew at some point he would be going to the football team. He (Lockhart) told me he was coming that day.

"He (Chamberlain) is a class act. He's my neighbor. Georgia Tech is getting a special kid,'' Davis said.

Everyone at Monroe feels the same way: Class act, great kid, one in a million...You hear all that and more about Chamberlain, who is respected on and off the field for all the right reasons. He's has a 3.0 GPA and a football I.Q. that's even higher.

"He's a talented football player payer, but more than that, he is a great person,'' Monroe football coach Charles Truitt said. "I have a great respect for him as a young man. His parents did a great job raising him. He came to us this way.''

Tanya Chamberlain took Lockhart's proposal as seriously as anyone. During voluntary workouts that summer, Bryan told her he didn't feel like going to practice one day.

"My mom told me if I didn't go to practice not to come home,'' Chamberlain said.

And once he arrived on the football field, Chamberlain, who was about 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, just got bigger and better. He could only bench press about 130 pounds back then.

Today, he's 6-5 and 295 and benches 315. He's not just big and physical, but when he went to the Georgia Tech camp, he was clocked at 5.0 in the 40-yard dash.

"That's pretty good for a big guy,'' jokes Chamberlain. "When I first start playing football I could only bench 130. I wasn't very strong, but coach Truitt said since I wasn't very strong, we will out-technique them.''

He did, and now Chamberlain has that rare combo of being quick on his feet and powerful, too.

"He is really light on his feet,'' Monroe offensive coordinator Chris Wade said. "He moves real well laterally. Not too many lineman can move that well and be so big. I think he'll will (be a success at the next level). He's got the tools and he has the mental capacity to do it.

"He's pretty intelligent about the game,'' he said. "He understands the game, understands schemes. He makes a lot of calls for us up front. He keeps people squared away.''

Chamberlain is one of those leaders everyone wants to follow.

"It's like having another coach on the field. He's a leader out there and all the players look up to him,'' Truitt said. "He's a leader in every way. He is the first one at practice and the last to leave, and he works hard and pushes the others.''

Chamberlain not only leads by example, but he takes control in practice and at games, often huddling teammates and speaking to them.

"He is at the center of it, always trying to motivate us,'' Reid said. "He is real humble. He won't raise his voice, but he'll talk to you and we listen. The team listens to him.''

Chamberlain's voice is always the last heard when the offense breaks the huddle.

"He's a bigtime leader,'' Monroe quarterback Devine Noel said. '"He gets us started every day in practice, and (in games) he breaks down every huddle with the last thing to say. It's something motivational. And he's the leader of that line. Everyone looks up to him.''

Well, at least on Monroe's side of the ball.

"He makes the other team scared of him,'' Noel said. "Anyone going up against him is scared. But he doesn't talk smack like other linemen. He's real quiet. He just lines up in front of you and kills you.''

Reid has the same feeling every time he runs behind Chamberlain.

"I just know he is going to kill the man he's blocking,'' Reid said. "But he's not just a (great blocker). He's good with everyone on this team. He helps them get better. He treats (sophomore lineman Akeem Porter) like he is his little brother.''

Porter knows it.

"I look up to him,'' Porter said. "And try to be like him.''

Chamberlain feels that's part of his job.

"I learned from the great Early Mumphrey and from Larry Winfield,'' said Chamberlain, referring to Monroe players who were the leaders of the previous Monroe teams. "Now I'm a senior and it's my time to be the leader. What (Mumphrey) taught me, I pass down to the next guy. That's what I try to do with Akeem. You always pass it down. My mother always says to share your blessings.''

Chamberlain has been a blessing to Monroe.

"I'm glad he quit playing basketball and started playing football,'' Noel said. "He's one of the funniest people I have ever met. He can just give you a look, and he's got jokes. If your breath is a little bad in the morning, he'll say: 'Let me do you a favor and get you a tooth brush and some toothpaste.' He's just on you like that.''

And he is on them on the field, too.

"He just works so hard,'' Noel said. "And he pushes everybody, especially in conditioning. He pushes himself harder than anyone. He's a great lineman and a great leader. I wish we had four more just like him. If we did, we would be state championship-bound.''

Monroe football hasn't been the same since the day Lockhart stepped onto the basketball court and took Chamberlain off it.

There's never been a better rebound.

"The best thing that ever happened to me is that dude right there,'' Chamberlain said of Lockhart. "I wouldn't be where I am today, and going to college on a scholarship if he hadn't come to the gym that day.

"I appreciate him every day.''