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June 17, 2013

Chappuis shaped by experience

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, a World War II hero who led the infamous Doolittle raid that is widely thought to have been the event that turned the American war effort completely around, has been widely credited with the famous quote, "There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer."

Doolittle, who himself volunteered to lead the mission, made the observation about the pilots who were asked to volunteer for the risky, almost-certain-death endeavor.

While nothing within the realm of every day life rivals the mission the brave World War II pilots undertook, volunteers of every variety still exist today in every facet of life. The point of the quote, whether applied to soldiers in a very real war, or a local charity - or even a college football player stepping up to pay his own way, is that a volunteer demonstrates a different level of passion, or commitment to whatever his/her cause.

Senior safety [db]Quade Chappuis[/db], along with countless other collegiate athletes fall into the same category, choosing to forego scholarship opportunities in order to attend dream schools without the scholarship.

For Chappuis, his dream school was Utah.

"My dad went to Utah, and he ran track and field there. So I grew up going to games, and we always had season tickets. We were always really big Ute fans," Chappuis recalled. "So it was always my dream to go there and play football. I basically spent my whole childhood trying to prepare for that and doing whatever I could to make that happen."

Despite all of his dreams and efforts, when the time came, Chappuis' dream didn't work out exactly according to plan. The Utes showed interest in the high school running back/safety, but ultimately did not extend him a scholarship offer.

"I was really disappointed, of course, but I still never really considered going anywhere else," said the un deterred Chappuis. "I had some other offers from junior colleges and stuff, but it didn't take me very long to decide that I was still going to go to Utah and pursue my dream."

While Chappuis wasn't offered a scholarship out of the gate, he was offered preferred walk-on status, meaning he would immediately be at the top of the list for consideration once a scholarship became available.

In other words, for two of Chappuis' four years at Utah, he was essentially a volunteer; paying his own way for the right to put in the same work and the same hours as any scholarship athlete on the roster.

For the Alpine (Utah) native, his struggles as a walk-on comprise much of his collegiate football career. Though Chappuis was candid about the difficulties and struggles, he didn't go so far as to call his decision a gamble.

"I didn't really view it like that at all. With the preferred status, I knew it was something that I could still achieve," he pointed out. "I just thought that I was going to have to work harder, and want it more than before. But I knew that I still had the opportunity to make my dream happen."

Already a no-nonsense, all business type, Chappuis set his mind to working harder and longer than he ever had before once he arrived on campus at Utah.

"I think I got a lot of it from my dad, because he just taught us to not complain, take of your business, at work, in the classroom or whatever you were doing. So

"All the coaches, and especially Coach Scalley did a great job of keeping my mind right during that time. It could be a struggle and you had times where you kind of questioned what you were doing, but all the support I got from everyone kept me going," he credited. "It didn't take much motivation, because it was still something that was right in front of me for the taking, so it would just be momentary lapses, then I'd bounce back. One thing Coach Scalley said to me basically before every practice was 'Go out and earn your scholarship today.' That was big for me, and that was usually all it took."

With the single-minded determination to attain that ever-elusive scholarship, Chappuis' moment finally happened in the fall of 2011. Toward the end of fall camp, it was announced that Chappuis was being awarded a full scholarship, and it was a moment that Chappuis still looks back on with fondness and pride.

"When they told me about it, I couldn't really believe what was happening. It just didn't really sink in right away, because I was kind of in shock because this was the moment I had been waiting for, basically since I was a little kid," Chappuis looked back on his big moment. " What runs through your mind is just all the hours of hard work trying to get to this moment, and then to have it finally come, it was just kind of an emotional moment for me. The first thing I did after was call my dad, and I wanted to share that with him first. It was a good day."

Having already achieved his goal, it may have been easy to lay back and coast, if only just a little bit. However, Chappuis says that having the scholarship hasn't changed his persona, his work ethic or his mind-set.

"I think the working hard and proving yourself is so ingrained in you that it never really goes away. Before, you were out to prove that you deserved the scholarship and so you kind of always had that chip on your shoulder," he observed. "Even after, I still kind of have that chip on my shoulder, because every day I want to make sure that I prove that I deserve it. I want to keep proving that I deserve it every day. That saying, 'Earn your scholarship today' still applies even once you have it. You don't want to be the guy who's coasting."

Chappuis says that his struggles weren't isolated to just him, and that several teammates were in the same boat; working to be awarded scholarships. According to Chappuis, a core of similar players grew close as they worked to achieve their common goals. Chief among them was running back [db]Karl Williams[/db], who also walked on to the team in hopes of snaring the golden ticket.

"I think that Karl was one of the guys who really helped me through that time. He is a tough guy who always put in the work and that I respected. We were also in kind of the same situation, so I think we had that experience in common," Chappuis complimented. "We ended up kind of working together and pushing each other and helped keep each other going, and I'm not sure if I would have made it without him doing it beside me."

Williams has been so important to Chappuis in his time at Utah that he recalled the moment when Williams received his scholarship as almost more meaningful and emotional than his own.

"I knew everything that he had been through in order to reach that, and so to see him get his scholarship really, was almost better than when I got mine. It was a super-emotional moment for me," Chappuis admitted. "I was so happy for him, and I knew what that meant for him and for his family, so it was cool. It's one of those rare things that you get to witness throughout your playing career that really kind of hit you, and mean a lot."

Looking back on their respective careers as Chappuis and the other 18 graduating seniors will no doubt do as they head into their final seasons as Utes, a handful of memories and a collection of moments will stand out.

Chappuis openly shared what would represent his high and lowlights of his four years at Utah, separating his personal hardships from those of the team.

"There were bad games and hard times that we shared, as a team, of course. But we have always been able to overcome those, I think and not let them linger. Fortunately, even though we get hurt as a team, there's always the next game and the next challenge to prepare for," Chappuis insisted. "So I feel like those moments are just part of the full experience, and if you're going to be successful, you don't let them stick with you. Even though you through hard things, I feel like you get better and you learn from them, so it maybe doesn't feel as negative in that way."

From a personal standpoint, Chappuis was candid.

"Personally, my hardest times or the low point was just the whole time I was just a walk-on. I never felt like I got treated any differently than anybody else, but just the time-sacrifice and the work is a grind that wears on," Chappuis confided. "Especially over time. My highlight, I think was probably when I basically started the BYU game (in 2011) and I got my first interception. That was basically like the completion of my dream, because I had just been awarded the scholarship, and then a few weeks later that happened. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment."

Despite the hardships and struggles, Chappuis understands, and was quick to point out all that Utah Football has done, and given him.

"I will always have that sense of having accomplished my dream. Not everyone can say that, so I will always be able to know, and maybe say to my family down the road that you really can do whatever you want to, and you can accomplish your dreams - if you work hard enough. You hear that, but to be able to be honest about that, because you actually accomplished it, is big," Chappuis philosophized.

Chappuis credits his time playing football for having already completed his under-graduate degree in Psychology.

"Honestly, I don't think I would have taken school as seriously as I have if I hadn't played football. I know I wouldn't have been way off-track, but I just don't think I'd be done early like I am," he credited. "There is such a focus, and the coaches really keep you on track and it's just a really big help to me to have it done and out of the way. So that's the biggest thing I think I will take away from this experience."

With the tangible result of having a degree in hand, Chappuis expanded on some of the traits and characteristics necessary, many of which derive from playing football, to having achieved it.

"You learn how to prioritize and balance your time. You learn some of those practical things, but I think the big thing here is that yes, football is important but it's more important to understand that there is life outside of football, and after football," Chappuis said. "You get that balance from the coaches where what you do both on and off the field matters. The things that make you succeed on the field are the same things that allow you to succeed off of it."

While the off-field success has already been achieved, Chappuis says that his legacy, and that of his senior teammates' has yet to be decided. Heading into his senior season, Chappuis feels that the expectations have yet to be met, and the success for which he has worked so hard has yet to be found.

"I think, as a senior class, we can honestly say that we've put in the work and we've cared. I don't think anything like that was missing, but whatever it was, we haven't gotten the wins. For those who get to see, I think our work ethic has been there, but as far as getting wins, I don't think our legacy has been decided yet. I don't think that's final, because we have this one last year left," Chappuis explained. "We want to leave our mark and go out on top. We want to leave the program better than when we found it, and that's something we talk about. So I feel like there's a lot at stake this year, and that's the way we're preparing for it."

For Chappuis, however, the personal and teams struggles are simply part of the process and part of being a collegiate athlete. While he takes them seriously, he also takes them in stride, as he understands that it all goes to making him better prepared for life after college, and football.

"Nothing is easy, I mean being a student-athlete is not an easy thing. You'll have the academic stuff, and you have whatever your struggles are in the locker room or on the field. It teaches you how to deal with life, and having your career and your family," Chappuis reasoned. "So I take it that way, and I try not to let any one thing mean too much. I know if I handle it right, it's just a lesson that I can take with me and learn from. So I think it's all positive. I've learned a lot."

As he moves toward a career in working with troubled teens post-graduation, Chappuis' ups and downs and struggles and hardships can only serve him well, and prepare him for the next step.

"My dad is a psychologist, and he owns some programs for troubled teens, he has camps and other things that he doesn. So I plan to take over what he's already started and built after I'm done at Utah," Chappuis said. "I think every experience I can get will help in taking that on. Everyone has their challenges, and their struggles. They're different for everyone, but knowing that I've had my own and been through some things that weren't easy, I think, will help me succeed in helping people down the road."


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