Chambers greets destiny with open arms

The day the Everett Herald article on Craig Chambers came out last fall, it was clear where the loyalties stood for the 6-5, 195-pound receiver prospect from Mill Creek (Wash.) Henry M. Jackson High School. Last night Craig took the next step towards fulfilling a childhood dream by verbally committing to play football for the University of Washington.

"Friday I knew I was going to do it," Chambers told tonight from his home in Mill Creek. "I took the weekend to think things over and then I called him around 10:30 last night. My Mom thought it was going to be too late but I knew it was going to be fine. It was a quick conversation. I told him, 'I'm ready to be a Dawg,' and he sounded psyched, really hyped up. He told me, 'OK, now it's time to get the rest.'"

Thus it seemingly ends for Craig, almost as quickly as it began. Those that questioned 'when' as opposed to 'if' were right on the money. And interestingly enough, Chambers almost took the bait even sooner.

"I thought about committing a couple of times already," he said. "It was just going to be easier not going on my trips, having a girlfriend and all. You know how stories can get out. I didn't want to deal with any of that. My brother said, 'You can get some nice steaks, but is that what you want to do?' If you are single and a partying kind of guy, it would be the greatest thing to take those trips, but I've never really done parties. I'm more of a homebody."

In this recruiting process, it turns out that what was good for the older brother appears to be just as inviting for the youngest. "Well, it really depended on which day you were talking to him," Jackson Head Football Coach Joel Vincent said. "I knew all along that he was leaning towards Washington, that they were the leading candidate, for a number of reasons. His brother, his mother being so close here... just him being involved with them since 3rd or 4th grade, it has left a lot of indelible impressions on him. But he also talked to me about getting a chance to see other parts of the country."

That news, apparently, is now old news. "I was thinking about going to USC's camp," Craig said. "But then this happened. I'm not going there now."

Richie chimed in. "He understands the nature and the gravity of his decision. He knows the only visit he'll be taking is the one to the University of Washington." Adds Craig, "I will not be going anywhere else unless something happens."

It's almost improbable that a 6-5 athlete who runs a 4.45 40 and was an all-state selection as a junior was flying under the recruiting radar, but that's exactly how Chambers felt. Maybe it was just his youthful exhuberance, maybe a little hubris. Whatever it was, the process wasn't going fast enough for him, so he put a stop to it.

"I kind of felt that my stock was going down and that played a part in why I made my decision now," he said. "Nobody stepped up like Washington did. It just was taking other schools too long to do it. For example, if a school didn't offer me until my school year, I wouldn't have taken them seriously at all. And Washington was just the place for me."

Richie said, "The recruiting process was something he couldn't control, so it was frustrating. Like with a game, he knows he can go out there and take it over, but when you're dealing with coaches, they may just string you along to keep you going, telling you what you want to hear. There are a lot of colleges that like to do their recruiting near the end of the month, and I think that hurt some schools. Washington and Washington State were the only schools that had stepped up with offers, but Penn State told our coach that they were going to offer him and UCLA too, but the fact that a lot of schools weren't really stepping up to the plate helped make his decision a little easier."

Vincent echoed the older Chambers' sentiments. "To be honest, the recruiting process can be a very stressful one to go through, and it could have simply been a case of Craig saying, 'Hey, there's a wonderful school right here in my own backyard and it's obvious the coaches like me a lot so I'm going to make my decision now to get rid of that stress."

Craig made it very clear that there was no stress put on him by the Washington coaches to end the process prematurely. "Actually, he never pressured me at all," Chambers said. "In fact, the last time I talked to him before last night was two weeks ago."

There seemed to be a turning point in Chambers' recruitment by the Huskies. It was just a normal practice during spring football, in which Craig attended. There were other prospects there, a lot, in fact. It was that practice where Craig saw the coaches' first true, legitimate interest in him.

"I do think that was the turning point," Richie said. "There were a lot of recruits that day, and the coaches singled him out. They asked him to come on the field so he could see what was going on and so he could meet people. I think that really helped push him over the edge. He knew then that they were serious about him."

"I think it had to do with the way Coach Neuheisel recruited him. When this all started, he was looking a lot at Oregon and Washington State because of the kinds of receivers they've been putting out lately. Washington hasn't had that kind of legacy lately, but with Reggie (Williams) there Craig felt like they were starting to put more of a focus on putting together a national receiving corps and the coaches really made him feel important. It swayed Craig to finalize his decision to attend the University of Washington."

"There was really no point in waiting," Craig said, once the offer came down. "I didn't want to wait that long. People knew I was going to go to U-Dub. And while getting offered by the in-state school is a cool thing, it was the fact that I was the first one offered that was what I was interested in. It was like I was the beneficiary of it. And I didn't want Coach Neuheisel to have to wait for me to make up my mind. I wanted him to know that I'm here and ready to go."

Even though Craig said people knew, he still knows the timing of it was a little bit of a shocker. "It was a surprise to everybody, my friends, my family, even to myself," he said. "I called up my girlfriend on Saturday and told her I was going to commit to U-Dub and she said 'What?', and my Mom said 'What?'. It's been pretty low-key so far. I really haven't talked about it at school, but my friends found out about it and news spread pretty quickly. I was a little surprised."

Not so fast, Craig. You can't sneak something like this past your brother. "It wasn't really a big surprise," Richie said. "Like I told my Mom, I would be calling up to do my 'two-week checkup' to see what was going on and what I thought of the decision he was going to make. I told him, taking trips is only going to get you a good meal and a chance to see some different parts of the country. Was that going to be important to him? In the end he made the best decision for himself. It was the right decision to make."

That sentiment was seconded by Vincent, a die-hard Cougar. "I'm extremely happy for Craig, it's a wonderful opportunity," Joel said. "And even though I graduated from Wazzu, I still have a great deal of admiration for Washington's football program and tradition and I have a lot of respect for Coach Neuheisel and his staff."

Craig knows what's in store for him, and knowing that puts him at ease. In fact, he'll be one of the most-heralded in-state players to ever come to Washington, entering an elite group that includes the Huards, Paul Arnold and Reggie Williams. Chambers knows the expectations will be high, but he also knows that there are ] some serious perks to being a local legend.

"I'd say one of the main reasons I wanted to go to the home school is because of the fans," Craig said. "I know they'll be rooting for me. I have fans already. It's pretty cool. There are going to be 70,000 fans at Husky Stadium cheering me at my first game. I didn't want to go somewhere where nobody was cheering for me. At U-Dub, it's like you are a hometown hero. It's like you're a god. They'll cheer for you even if you make a mistake. That's one of the main reasons I stayed...the fans."

Chambers, in the meantime, is taking care of business in the classroom. "My GPA and everything else is fine, I'm set to graduate," he said. "I'll be taking the SAT on June 1st. I'll take that one like it's a practice one and then the second time I'll smash it."

His ankle that he turned is also healing up nicely. "I won't make it down to the NIKE camp, but I will go to our team camp at Western (Washington)," he said. "If I go to any other camps, it'll be the one at Washington."

For Washington football fans having to sweat the doldrums of spring and summer like an overheated sauna, the verbal commitment of Craig Chambers is akin to a welcome breeze. "I feel like it was a good decision," he said. "I guess I could have waited longer, until the end of May, but the timing was fine." Top Stories