(Kelan Chairs) Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

New Orleans native Kelan Chairs walked on at Mississippi State and earned a scholarship.

As a player at St. Augustine (LA), Mississippi State linebacker Kelan Chairs played against former Bulldog defensive end Ryan Brown and with LSU standout and Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette. While Chairs did not boast the same offer sheet as his talented peer and teammate, he shared a similar drive. Now a junior on the field and a senior in the classroom, Chairs has an SEC scholarship.

Earlier this week, Mississippi State announced that a pair of walk-on linebackers, Kelan Chairs and Josiah Phillips would be placed on the Bulldogs' 2016 scholarship roll. Chairs, who joined the program in 2013, toiled in relative obscurity for two seasons paying his own way to school. Things changed in a major way when Coach Dan Mullen let the personable linebacker know that Bulldogs would pick up the tab from here. 

"It was a blessing, totally a blessing." Chairs said. "I have been working hard since day one. Just (going) to keep working and  continue to get better each and everyday with the team. When they told me the whole team was excited, I was excited and my whole family was excited. It really was a great time. "

While Chairs was happy to be a part of it all and enjoying being on an SEC roster, he never had a clue that Mullen and the Bulldog coaching staff had him in mind as a player who would be rewarded with a scholarship.

"My teammates told me to just keep working hard and that everything was going to play off," Chairs said. "I just keep going and continued to be better and be active and lead the defense. (I wanted) to be one of those guys that showed that maybe I could be a guy on this team to help produce."

When Chairs was considering his options for college, his relationship with former foe Brown and childhood friend Damian Williams, now Bulldog quarterback, was a factor. Being close to a pair of talented players from back home was enough for the linebacker to give Mississippi State a solid look.

"Once I came on a visit, I liked the scene and it wasn't too far from home," Chairs replied. "I prayed on it and I decided I was going to come here and walk-on. I told my family to be behind me, everything was going to be okay."

Chairs' gamble on himself has paid off. Earlier this week, the native of the Big Easy had the chance to have the conversation of a lifetime. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, Chairs was able to tell his mother face to face that she did not have to worry about paying for his college education any longer.

"I called my mom on facetime, so I could see her face," Chairs said. "She bust out crying. She was excited for me. My dad, my little sister, they were all excited. It was a great feeling. It gave me the chills.

"(This scholarship) means a lot. That's a big lift. That is something that you can carry with you in life forever. You walked on and you earned your respect and everything. That was one of my goals when I first got here.

"I used to be down on myself about it, but at the same time I was like keep going. I had moments when I doubted myself, but I prayed on it and kept going. I didn't want to give up on the guys I was here with like Damian (Williams) and Fred Ross, guys I was close with everyday."

Chairs is part of a talented group of linebackers that is expected to be one of the strongest personnel groups on the Bulldog roster. Fans and observers alike all seem to be excited about the Mississippi State defensive unit. Chairs shares in that enthusiasm. 

"It's a great linebacker corps," Chairs said. "We have a great coach, a great D line, great safeties and I am around a great group of guys on defense. Being able to get a role on that defense is a key aspect. I just want to continue to keep going with the team, have a good season with the team and maybe we can go somewhere big this year."

Growing up in metro New Orleans, Chairs has seen the best and worst of times. Friends and family fought back from Hurricane Katrina. While most of the country calls the major tropical system by it's proper name of Katrina, those in and around the Crescent City call it THE storm, no further name is needed. 

Chairs hopes that his journey as an undersized walk on from a tough city where hard times come easy to the SEC will provide some measure of inspiration to the young people of his community. 

"You have to keep going. You can't ever just stop," Chairs said. "You can't ever get down on yourself. You have to keep going. You have to keep pushing. If you get down, pray on it. Just telling somebody simple like 'I see that' or 'that's a nice play'. you can keep them going. You have to keep striving for what you want."

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