Life's challenges drive Utah cornerback Chapman to succeed
"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer."
The tattoo on Utah cornerback Lamar Chapman's left arm, taken from Revelation 2:10, is a constant reminder for him to be brave, to fear nothing and to never back down.
It's also a reminder that nothing in his near future, including Saturday's game against third-ranked TCU, presents as much danger to him as his past.
So what if TCU boasts one of the nation's highest-scoring offenses and one of the nation's most-efficient quarterbacks in Andy Dalton? What Chapman faces Saturday is just a team in a game. Dodging blocks and running down receivers is fun. Dodging bullets and running from thugs as a child growing up in Compton, Calif.? That was something to fear.
Chapman, Utah's 5-foot-8, 176-pound senior, is one of the smallest players on Utah's team but has a reputation of being one of the Utes' toughest players and hardest hitters. He honed those skills with hard work at Utah, but he earned them living as a child in one of Los Angeles' most notorious suburbs.
"My apartment buildings where I grew up, if you are weak or not strong, you're not going to survive," he said. "You're going to get punked or get your toys taken from you. It made me never back down from challenges like tackling or things like that, even with my size. It was how I was raised, how I had to be raised."
Chapman made it out, all the way to a major Division I college football program. His younger brother, Raymar, didn't. In 2006, Raymar was the victim of a drive-by shooting. He and his friends were on the way to a party one Saturday in July when shots were fired into their car from another one that pulled up alongside it.
Police investigations determined the incident wasn't gang-related, but that Raymar and his friends simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Lamar got word of his brother's shooting while he was with other friends, celebrating a friend's release from prison.
"We'd taken him out to eat, to show him a good time," Chapman said. "What happened with my brother really affected me. I had so many thoughts in my head. I didn't know where I was headed and it gave me a whole other outlook on life. You can't take anything for granted."
With a father in jail serving a sentence for drug-related charges and a rocky relationship with his mother, Chapman was raised mainly by his grandmother, Dorothy, whom he credits for keeping him in line.
"I never got into major bad things, just little stuff, but she was the one who kept me in school and things like that," he said. "My apartment buildings were filled with real bad people, and it was easy to get misguided and led down the wrong path."
Chapman did well enough to get to El Camino Junior College, where he was recruited by Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake.
Now he is excelling with the Utes, as a leader on the defensive unit and in the classroom.
The human development major is on track to graduate in December and barely missed the dean's list in the spring.
He ranks second in the league in sacks per game (0.69) and ranks second in the league in tackles for loss (9.5). He also has three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said teams might overlook Chapman due to his small stature, but find out quickly he is a player to be respected thanks to his speed and will.
"He is a joy to coach," Whittingham said. "That guy is full speed every day and he has a competitive nature. I think he is underestimated by a lot of people but after they play him they realize how talented he is."
Chapman's intensity is infectious and has become the driving force behind the secondary, teammate Justin Taplin-Ross said.
"After the last game, I was worried about getting healed and he was already talking to me about the next game, saying we need to do this and this," Taplin-Ross said. "He was already thinking about the future."
Chapman, though, knows all too well if you don't game-plan everything in your life, chances are you won't win.
On Chapman's right arm is a cartoon and his brother's nickname, "Woo." He dedicates every game to his brother, with the tattoos serving as reminders of him and motivation to give his best.
"It keeps me grounded," he said. "I always know I have something to prove."
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P No. 4 TCU at No. 6 Utah, 1:30 p.m.
TV •CBS College
Lamar Chapman highlights
• 5-foot-8, 176 pound, senior.
• Human development major.
• Is the only defensive back listed among the Mountain West Conference leaders in sacks (5.5).
• Is Utah's leader in sacks and tackles for loss (9.5).
• Leads the Utes with 29 solo tackles and is third on team with 42 total tackles.
• Has three pass breakups and forced a fumble against Air Force.
• Just missed making the dean's list (3.5) in the spring with a 3.43 GPA.