The state of Ohio consistently turns out some of the best high school football players in the country. Ohio also has a reputation for producing highly rated cornerbacks. Last year it was Jamario O'Neal and Brandon Harrison. This year it looks like Trotwood Madison product Jovani Chappel (5-8, 170lbs.) will be one of the top cornerback prospects in the state.
IrishEyes spoke with Chappel and found out that there is a there is a lot going on at this Dayton area high school.
"We were really young last year, but our school sent two guys to Toledo," Chappel said. "We should be very good this year, because we have a lot of talent coming back. Besides me, Jerrell Leak (WR), Cameron Mobley (RB) and Nate Cole (DL/OL) will probably get attention from DI football programs."
Having good talent is one thing, developing that talent is another. Chappel was eager to tell us about his coach and what his coach has done for the Trotwood Madison program.
"My coach is Maurice Douglass. He played for the Chicago Bears (safety). He also played at Trotwood Madison." Chappel said, "He really cares about his players. He's more than a coach to me; he's a role model. He teaches us about more than football because he sees us as more than football players."
Chappel added that what really impresses him about coach Douglass.
"He played in the NFL for a long time, and could have done anything he wanted, but he chose to come back here to teach us what he knows about football and life," Chappel said."
After hearing such glowing remarks from the player about the coach, I had the opportunity to speak with the former Chicago Bear great about his player.
"What we try to do at Trotwood Madison is develop the gifts that God has given every kid," Douglass said. "God has blessed every kid with gifts. All kids have them. We try to develop those gifts, encourage the kids to use their gifts, or what I like to call ‘tweaking' their natural God-given abilities. Hopefully it will allow some of them to get an education through football. I've found my lane in life. I'm back here (Trotwood Madison) so that I can help these kids find their lane in life as well."
Coach Douglass went on to talk about Jovani Chappel as a player.
"From a football standpoint, Jovani doesn't have the height colleges are looking for at corner, but he has everything else," Douglas said. "He'll be one of the best corners in the country. He's tough; he's smart, he knows the location of the receivers on the field and makes the defensive progressions. He has a great understanding of the game and is very physical. He's worked out with me since he was in eighth grade.
"As for his character, he's committed to the task at hand. He listens and works extremely hard to please others. He doesn't seek a lot of attention. He'd rather talk about his teammates accomplishments than his own. Speak positive words about others and positive things will come back to you."
As a junior Chappel had 65 tackles, two interceptions and an impressive 13 passes broken up. What schools have taken notice?
"He's getting mail from everyone around here," Douglass said. "Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State and Notre Dame. He's gotten letters from USC, Arizona State, Miami (FL), Oklahoma, Kentucky – just about everywhere."
"The old Notre Dame staff was recruiting him. I talked to Jimmy Gonzales a bunch about Jovani. We're still getting a lot of information from the new staff. It's certainly a great opportunity for him, so I'm sure he'll take a good look at them. I just received some information about the Notre Dame football camp.
"I know Bernie Parmalee (Notre Dame tight end/special teams coach) from his days playing at Miami. I also sent a couple of players to play for Rick Minter (Irish defensive coordinator) when he was at Cincinnati."
Most high school players with a ton of talent generally are used on both offense and defense. We asked Chappel how coach Douglass planned to use him this year.
"I've played on both offense and defense, but last year I strained ligaments in my thumb so I mainly played cornerback," Chappel said. "Now that I'm healthy, I'll play slot receiver and running back on offense. On defense, free safety. Teams stopped throwing to my side of the field last year, so coach Douglass is going to switch me. If I'm at cornerback, it's easy to take me out of the game. At safety I'll be able to make more plays because I'll be in the middle of things."
When asked what position he'd prefer to play at the next level Chappel said, "corner--definitely cornerback."
Does he have any interest in Notre Dame?
"Yeah, I've gotten letters from Notre Dame. I'm not sure what's going on with the new coach, but I am interested in Notre Dame," Chappel said. "I want to go to a school where the coaching situation is stable. I'm going to get an education, but I'm also going to play football. I just want to make sure the coach I sign with will be there while I'm there."
As far as early recruiting trips, Chappel said that he had already attended an Ohio State junior day and planned on going to the Purdue junior day in a couple weeks. As far as summer football camps Jovani said "I'll probably camp at Michigan for a day and maybe Tennessee, although I haven't worked it all out yet."
Chappel will be particularly busy sorting out all the recruiting mail this spring, but he's decided that he can always work to improve something.
"I decided to run track because I thought it would help me increase my speed and help me stay in condition during the off-season," said Chappel. "I'm running indoor track this year. I run the 60 meters (7.2) and the 200 meters. I'm also going to run outdoor track and that starts soon."
Comment: The Notre Dame staff is aware of Jovani Chappel, and he's certainly aware of the coaching change at Notre Dame. Jovani values the player-coach relationship as evidenced by his comments about Maurice Douglass. If the new staff is going to have a chance with Chappel, they are going to have to convince him and coach Douglass that they have Notre Dame headed in the right direction. The one thing coach Douglass mentioned that might be a stumbling block is that Chappel is planning on graduating early.