April 17, 2018

O’Leary: Nomadic childhood made Chapman a ‘better teammate’

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Whatever a pro football career might throw at Mark Chapman, you get the feeling that the steady-handed Central Michigan receiver will be able to deal with it.

While the rush of getting drafted next month rightly takes centre stage right now, a career in football is full of the unexpected. If you’re fortunate enough to play a decade in the CFL, you’ll see coaches and GMs come and go. You’ll see teammates get signed, get traded, get cut and sometimes get brought back.

Chapman, who sits at No. 2 in the spring edition of the CFL’s Scouting Bureau rankings — the final edition before the May 3 draft — jumped up eight spots from the winter ranking, on the heels of a strong showing at the National Scouting Combine presented by adidas.

He also grew up in a military family, which kept him on the move through much of his childhood, as his family followed the orders his dad, James, received.

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Chapman impressed during his one-on-one drills during this year’s CFL National Scouting Combine (Jason Halstead/CFL.ca)

“I was actually born in Japan,” Chapman said in a conference call on Thursday afternoon.

“We lived in California, that’s where I started playing pee wee football for eight years, then Missouri and my dad finally retired in 2008. That’s when I moved to Michigan.”

Those are tough years for a kid to move around. While the moves themselves were difficult, Chapman continued playing football in each new location.

“It actually made me a better teammate,” he said. “I was able to relate to my teammates and wherever I went I just made new friends. I got really good at being a good teammate, so I’m thankful for that. It wasn’t too hard. It was just show up and play ball.”

The six-foot, 180-pounder showed up in Winnipeg and played ball and it worked out for him. Chapman posted a 4.69-second 40-yard dash (tenth), a 36-inch vertical leap (fourth), the top broad jump, at 10’7.25” and the top three-cone drill, at seven seconds flat. His shuttle, 4.12 seconds, was the second-best time at the combine.

He didn’t just test well. He went out in the one-on-ones and was dominant for stretches, showing why he led the Central Michigan Chippewas with 54 receptions and 805 yards last season.

Will Chapman get selected by the Montreal Alouettes first-overall in this year’s draft? (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

His resume and his strong combine shot him up the Scouting Bureau’s rankings. While the Montreal Alouettes haven’t given any indications with how they’re leaning with their No. 1 pick, Chapman’s at least in position to make some history. It’s been 11 years since a team took a receiver first overall (Chris Bauman, Hamilton) and as CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson pointed out on the call, a receiver has only gone first or second three times in the last 25 years.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t know it was that rare an event to happen in the draft. I’ve just been hearing it from my agent and my family’s been filling me in,” he said. “I’m really grateful. It doesn’t happen often. It’s really exciting for me and I really can’t believe it. I’m just so excited about it.”

He’s working out and training his way through what can be an anxious wait-and-see period before the draft.

“I’m open to whatever happens. I don’t try to analyze too much, I’m just having fun with it,” he said.

Whatever happens in May and the years after that, he knows he’ll be ready.

“I won’t be too rattled if anything ever happens, throughout my career,” he said. “I’ll adapt and keep it rolling.”