BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – After having the game taken away from him for two years, Chauncey Incarnato is glad to have it back.
After two seasons on the sidelines, the 6-5, 282-pound sophomore offensive tackle is in the midst of spring football for Coach Terry Hoeppner's Hoosiers, penciled in as the team's No. 1 right tackle. It's been a long wait for the Dover, Ohio, product, who sat out the 2004 season as a redshirt at Notre Dame, and the 2005 season after transferring to Indiana last summer.
"To be back out there, it's a feeling I can't describe," Incarnato said. "It's surreal. I started playing football in the third grade, pee wee league, and then you spend four years of high school working toward being able to play in college. After spending the last two years out of it, I can't wait to get back out there."
The wait has been a challenging one. Incarnato admits when he first arrived in Bloomington he was not only unsettled by his new surroundings, but filled with doubts about what the future would hold.
"It's always rough when you transfer," Incarnato said. "You leave everything you've known. These are your coaches, these are your teammates and you get set in a certain world you've built around you."
He left that behind after Notre Dame fired Tyrone Willingham and replaced him with Charlie Weis at the conclusion of the 2004 season. After looking at a handful of possibilities, he opted to pack his bags for Bloomington and the Big Ten.
"At first I was nervous," Incarnato said. "I was scared, and I didn't know what to expect. For all I knew I was going to get here, go through the season, and say, ‘hey, maybe this just isn't for me.'"
There were moments of doubt as well while he was working with the scout team last fall. Occasionally unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Incarnato found himself wondering if his college football career would ever get off the ground.
But offensive line coach Bobby Johnson helped him get through some of those tough times.
"There were times that I got down, where I was thinking, ‘I can't play, I can't get on the field,'" Incarnato said. "And hearing (Johnson) saying ‘just keep working, in spring you'll be back out there,' really helped."
Incarnato might have been new to the IU roster last season, he wasn't unfamiliar with Johnson. While on Hoeppner's Miami (Ohio) staff Johnson had recruited Incarnato before eventually losing out on him to Notre Dame.
"He's done more than I can ever say," Incarnato said. "After leaving Notre Dame and not really sure where to go, he's been great.
"He's treated me like one of the guys like I've always been here. He coaches me hard, and I know he wants the best for me, and I know he wants me to be the best player I can be, and everything he does is in my best interest."
Johnson, meanwhile, is every bit as excited to have Incarnato in his stable of offensive linemen. After losing three senior starters last fall, Johnson will be assembling a front five that will have five new starters this season. Incarnato figures to be one of them, and he brings a toughness that Johnson is excited about.
"Chauncey brings fire to the game," Johnson said. "With him the thing you have to worry about, is that this isn't a backyard brawl here. A little technique. But he's a kid that has ability and some toughness to him that we need."
He's also someone who wants to get better on a daily basis, someone who can be hard on himself when he makes an error on the practice field.
"When he makes a mistake he's harder on himself than I could ever be," Johnson said. "I think it's because he misses the game. He realizes he's had the game taken away from him for a year."
Now he's got it back.
The Wait Is Almost Over for Incarnato
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