Chandler Knows the Meaning of TE at Georgia

ATHENS – There are dozens of oversized photographs hung all along the hallway outside the football meeting rooms at Georgia. About halfway down the corridor, just outside the tight ends' meeting room, a collage of pictures features images of Jermaine Wiggins, Benjamin Watson, Randy McMichael, Leonard Pope and Martrez Milner – all former Bulldogs, all now playing in the NFL.

For current Georgia tight end Tripp Chandler, this isn't just where he comes to watch film or work out each day. It's a tribute to the legacy of the players who came before him.

"This place is like a museum, so you see it all the time," Chandler said.

Chandler doesn't look at his role as the starting tight end on top-ranked team in the country as an opportunity. He views it as a responsibility. He owes a lot to players like Pope and Milner, so his success is as much about living up to their standards as it is about fulfilling his own expectations.

"I don't think you really understand it until you get here and you know the history of your position," Chandler said. "It's an honor to play tight end here, knowing the guys who have played here before you."

In 1997, Larry Brown earned a second-team All-SEC nod for his role on a team that finished 10-2. In the decade since then, Georgia has had a first- or second-team All-SEC selection at tight end every year but three.

Brown was followed by McMichael in 2000 and 2001, who was followed by Watson in 2003, who was followed by Pope in 2004 and 2005. Milner added his name to the list in 2006, and Chandler, who took over the starting job the following year, is hoping to join that elite club this season.

"I think he's got a good base for a great year and a great history here," quarterback Matthew Stafford said of Chandler. "He's got a chance to do something special his senior year, and he's practicing like he wants to be great."

Chandler said he doesn't just want to be great; he's obligated to be.

When he arrived at Georgia in 2005, he saw firsthand what the tight end position meant to the Bulldogs. Pope and Milner shared playing time and made matchups nearly impossible for opposing defenses.

"It was fun to watch them play, especially being here under Pope and ‘Trez at the same time," Chandler said. "They were just back and forth making great plays. They almost had an arrogance to them just because of the people that had come before them."

In head coach Mark Richt's offense, the tight end isn't just a hulking blocker who occasionally plays the role of safety net for the quarterback. He's a go-to guy in key situations – rumbling through the most dangerous terrain on the field at the most tenuous moments in the game.

"When you need a couple yards, you don't want to send the receiver in there all the time because it gets pretty rough over the middle," Chandler said. "So to be a bigger-bodied guy to go in there and get it done, the tight ends can do it."

Chandler got his first chance to show his talents in 2006 when he appeared in all 13 games as the primary backup to Milner. His first catch came on a fourth-and-1 play against Mississippi State that season. It went for a touchdown.

In 2007, Milner was gone, and Chandler set out to carve his own name into the record books. He caught three passes for 74 yards and a touchdown in the annual spring G-Day game. He led all Georgia's receivers in a loss to South Carolina and provided a lone bright spot by hauling in four passes and a touchdown in a loss to Tennessee. He made 10 starts in 2007 and finished the season with 21 receptions and 283 yards.

"I thought I filled in pretty good for (Milner) last year," Chandler said. "(This year) I want to take that role over even more, and help out the young guys coming along so that when I leave, someone will fill that spot."

Teaching the younger tight ends the ropes comes with the job for Chandler. After all, the duty of carrying the torch for players like Watson and Pope is only complete if he passes it on.

"A lot of great football players have played tight end here, but I think I've filled that void," Chandler said. "Hopefully we can keep it going after I'm gone."

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