Pitt's prize recruit to get an early jump on college
KENT, Ohio — At first, his friends didn't understand.
To Tra'von Chapman, the decision always made sense.
Chapman, Pitt's prize recruit in its Class of 2013, is graduating from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, Ohio, at the end of this month to begin chasing his dream of playing quarterback in college. He will attend his first college class Jan. 7, less than two months after his last high school game.
“I just figured this is something I really wanted,” he said. “This is something I really dedicated myself to. Why should I sit around and wait? I should go get it.”
Chapman, who will be eligible for Pitt's spring drills, may have to watch and learn behind quarterbacks Tom Savage, Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson, but he does make one promise about his freshman season:
“No one is going to outwork me,” he said. “I'll be patient, but I'll still grind hard. If I am third string or fourth string, I'm still going to work the hardest.”
Most days this summer, Chapman awoke before sunrise to start his morning workouts at Roosevelt, but he refused to drive to school.
“I thought that was cheating,” he said.
Instead, he ran or rode his bicycle two miles. Then, after arriving, he went to work.
“We would run hills, we would run through the sand, do squats,” he said. “It got to the point where two workouts a day weren't enough, and we started doing three sometimes. Every day, except Sunday, and even Saturday I would go to Kent State with my dad (Thad Jemison, that school's wide receivers coach) and work out.”
“He is fanatical,” Roosevelt coach John Nemec said.
Chapman didn't arrive at Roosevelt until 2011, when he transferred from Pinkerton High School in Columbus, Ohio, before his junior year. Immediately, he set goals.
“I wanted to earn my stripes, so the first day in the weight room I worked my butt off,” he said. “and those guys said, ‘OK, he might be something.'”
Chapman helped lift Roosevelt to back-to-back 10-2 seasons while throwing for 5,736 yards and 62 touchdowns, running for 1,506 and 19 touchdowns and playing nickel back on defense.
Roosevelt advanced into the second round of the state playoffs in the second-largest classification before losing. Chapman threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-21 victory against Warren Howland in the first round.
Numbers don't show how Chapman put the team on his back.
Asked what he believes to be his best gift, he said, “My leadership qualities.”
“I am going to push guys to be successful, and I want the same guys to push me,” he said.
When he spoke the words, “I guided this team to great things,” he said it as a fact, without bragging. “I wasn't alone.”
Rivals.com ranks Chapman as a four-star recruit and the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in Ohio behind Notre Dame commit Malik Zaire of Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering. Chapman smiled at the mention of Zaire's name.
“I'll never say anybody is better than me, but he is a great quarterback,” he said.
Nemec, who played at Gateway under WPIAL Hall of Fame coach Pete Antimarino, has been coaching high school football in Ohio for 33 years, 29 at Roosevelt. He won 222 of 336 games and sent four players, including offensive lineman Tony Mandarich, to the NFL.
He can't stop talking about Chapman, but he won't call him the best quarterback he has coached. “It's like picking your favorite child,” he said.
Chapman, though, is in the top 1 percent. “He's the most gifted all-around athlete I've ever had at quarterback,” he said.
This play from the 2012 opener illustrates the strength of Chapman's throwing arm: Backed into Roosevelt's end zone, with his toes inches from the back line, Chapman saw the pocket break down.
“Instead of taking off running and getting five or six yards, I run back behind my offensive line, and I am toe-to-toe with the end line,” he said. “It could have been a safety. I see my big receiver Brennan Beyner on a backside post and threw it as far I could.”
Said Nemec: “Sixty-five yards in the air.”
“I took a nice little hit on it, too, and got a late hit call,” Chapman said. “It ended up being almost an 80-yard play.”
Pitt coach Paul Chryst probably has seen similar plays on video many times from many players, but what he really wanted to see was how Chapman reacted with other students. So Chryst and quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger decided to spend a day at Roosevelt.
“He wanted to get a feel for the school, what kind of academic culture he was coming from,” Nemec said. “And then he wanted to watch him with his peers in action.”
“He wants student-athletes; he just doesn't want athletes,” said Chapman, who carries a 3.3 grade-point average.
Some of his peers were confused when Chapman told them he won't be returning for the second half of the school year.
He said he has outgrown high school.
“High school showed a lot of drama and a lot of rumors,” he said. “I didn't feel like being a part of that.”
He could have gone to college in his hometown of Cincinnati, where his mother, Vicki Chapman, lives. Illinois, Arizona, Wisconsin and Northwestern also made scholarship offers, but Pitt's coaches made the best impression, he said.
“I just thought it was time for me to get away,” he said, noting that Pittsburgh is close enough for his mother to come to games. “I felt Pittsburgh gave me a better chance to grow as a man.
“Even though Cincinnati was basically home, I felt like Pittsburgh was more of a home. That's a place I can build my legacy and leave something there.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
- Pederson’s 2nd tenure as Pitt AD comes to abrupt end
- Chryst returns home, named football coach at Wisconsin
- Many Pitt fans endorse move to oust Pederson as athletic director
- Assistant at Duke eyes Pitt football job
- Pitt players support Rudolph for job
- Pitt football fights to overcome steppingstone status
- Pitt: Football coach hire comes 1st, athletic director 2nd
- Pitt’s acting athletic director is deft facilitator
- Pitt coach Chryst expected to take Wisconsin job
- Pitt offensive coordinator Rudolph still focused on Panthers