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Monroe star Chamberlain headed to ATL

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Bryan Chamberlain doesn't miss playing basketball any more.

He traded in the round ball for pigskin, and the result turned out to well worth the risk. Chamberlain, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman for the Monroe High Tornadoes, signed his national letter-of-intent Tuesday to play offensive tackle for Paul Johnson's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Chamberlain was joined by about 200 family and friends at Oakridge Baptist Church to celebrate the scholarship achievement, although most knew he was headed for North Avenue for a while. Chamberlain, nicknamed "Big Show," was one of the first Yellow Jackets commitments for the 2011 class when he verbally agreed to attend Georgia Tech last April.

"I got it out of the way early," Chamberlain said of his commitment. "As soon as I saw the attraction (to Georgia Tech), I just wanted to become a part of the family."

He might not have gotten that chance if not for Monroe High offensive line coach Travis Lockhart, who hounded Chamberlain as a freshman to come out for the football team. Chamberlain's love then was basketball, and he would often fake a jump shot and laugh whenever Lockhart asked him about football.

Lockhart, however, knew better.

"I'd gone to practice to see him play," Lockhart joked Tuesday at the signing ceremony. "I knew his game was not up to par to get a scholarship in basketball. I kind of put my foot in my mouth when I guaranteed (Chamberlain's mother, Tanya) that I would get her son a scholarship (if he played football). With the hard work of Bryan, it came to (be)."

Tornadoes head coach Charles Truitt put Chamberlain on the offensive line, and the rest is history. Chamberlain, who runs a 5.0 40-yard dash, graded out at 89 percent blocking for the season, recorded 28 pancake blocks and was named All-State his senior season.

"He's got great balance and great footwork," Truitt said of Chamberlain. "(Georgia Tech) was really impressed with his ability to move. To have a young man go to a school like Georgia Tech and excel in the classroom and on the football field, we hope it will encourage the other young men in our program to be able to do that. It's a big step for Monroe High School as well as Bryan Chamberlain."

Chamberlain will enroll in summer school courses and get involved in the Yellow Jackets' weight training program in June before fall practice. He said Tech's offensive line depth is slim, so the opportunity to play early is there if he gets stronger.

Both his coaches agree that added strength will be the key for Chamberlain.

"He's got to get a little stronger," Lockhart said of Chamberlain, who bench presses around 315 pounds now. "Mentally, he's going to be there."

Truitt said the chance for Chamberlain to contribute this fall at Bobby Dodd Stadium "all depends on how well he can learn the offense."

"If they get him up there, get him bigger and get him stronger so he fits the mold, he'll be ready."

Chamberlain hasn't missed basketball much since leaving the court four years ago. He just needed a little nudge from Lockhart.

"I just like watching the game now in the crowd," Chamberlain said.

Thanks to his switch in sports, a crowd of 55,000 will get to watch him play most Saturdays on historic Grant Field over the next several years.

"It's been a long journey," Chamberlain said. "I went through it all -- a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I'm glad it ended like this."