An open letter to Coach Heupel

By Steve Williams

I’m a longtime sports writer in this area and fan of the Tennessee Vols and I want to share some information with you about Chandler Wilson, who was the starting quarterback at Carter High in the Strawberry Plains community of East Knox County the past four years.

I’ve known his grandfather, Bobby Stanton, for many years and asked him about Chandler’s future in football last week. Bobby, by the way, was a punter for UT back in the day, but got hurt and transferred to Carson-Newman, where he finished up.

Chandler has grown up in a one-parent home with his younger sisters Jenna and Wrenly. His mother, Valerie, is Bobby’s daughter and Bobby has been like a father to Chandler over the years.

Chandler, who is 6-foot and 200 pounds, had an outstanding prep career, passing for 8,182 yards and 81 touchdowns for the Hornets, who played in Class 4A. He also ran for 988 yards and 22 TDs in Coach Justin Pressley’s wide-open offense and Pressley gave him the freedom to run it on his own the last two seasons.

Bobby told me he expected his grandson was about to commit to Tusculum University, but wanted me to get that information from Chandler. He said UT had twice shown interest in Chandler and the second time asked for his transcript and highlight film, but hadn’t gotten back in touch with him. He also said time was nearing for Class of 2023 prospects to commit.

Bobby gave me his grandson’s phone number and I called Chandler the next day. I typed out a part of our conversation (below) and I think you would be interested in it:

Chandler: “As of right now I’m mostly leaning toward committing to playing football at Tusculum in the next few days.”

Me: “I think Coach Heupel is a pretty smart guy and a good football coach and he strikes me as the type of coach that would consider bringing you in to the quarterback room at UT as a walk-on, with your credentials as a quarterback in high school, and not only that, Bobby told me you have outstanding grades. He said you had a 4.3 GPA and a 30-plus on the ACT.”

Chandler: “I don’t like to brag on myself much, but I do pretty well in school. The 4.3 GPA is correct. My ACT is 29.”

Me: “Put in words what it would mean for you to go to UT.”

Chandler: “For me, I just think back to the little guy, the little Chandler that was running around wearing UT shirts all the time and going to games and looking up to UT players. That would be a dream come true for me to put myself in those shoes and just be a part of the Vols. But if that opportunity is not on the table, I’ve got to seize other opportunities.”

Me: “Are you also saying that, if you had your choice right now, you would choose to go to UT as a walk-on rather than go to any other school on a scholarship?”

Chandler: “Yes, it was how I was raised. I was brought up on the Vols and the University of Tennessee, so I would put them first, if there was an option.”

Coach Heupel, it’s my understanding that Chandler can go to UT free because of his grades, so it would be like having a fourth quarterback for free. And who knows what’s going to happen in the future injury-wise?

He’s also a local player who would just love to wear the orange and a player who had a lot of success as a high school quarterback.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

And Chandler, best wishes to you wherever you end up.