Tyler Chambers barks out orders to his teammates with an air of confidence during a recent Winston-Salem State practice.
He doesn’t casually ask them to get into the huddle, either. “C’mon guys, get into (expletive) huddle now,” he said.
Chambers is a new man this season as the Rams' starting center, and a lot has to do with him dropping 40 pounds this summer. At 6-feet and 350 pounds at the end of last season, Chambers had trouble staying in games because of his stamina, but that won’t be a problem for his senior season.
“Hey, has anybody seen the rest of Tyler?” one teammate said with a laugh.
Chambers checks in at 310 svelte pounds thanks to an off-season workout plan that included a lot of time with Marc Heinecke, the strength and conditioning coach.
“I just ate better and working out with Coach Heinecke really helped me,” Chambers said. “I was running a lot and lifting like crazy, and really the running in the morning was really big. I just bought into what Coach Heinecke was saying. He can be tough to deal with but I listened.”
Chambers, who is in his third season at WSSU after transferring from Bluefield College, is from Monroe, but he didn’t get home this summer. He stayed in Winston-Salem, got a job at a local hotel, and worked out under the watchful eye of Heinecke.
He didn’t miss many workouts at the Bowman Gray Stadium fieldhouse.
“I just wanted to be better,” Chambers said. “The No. 1 goal for this team is to get back to that (CIAA) championship game. That’s our team goal and one of my personal goals is to be All-CIAA and I felt like myself and one of my teammates from last season on the line (Justin Martinez) should have been All-CIAA. So I really wanted to put myself in the best position so I was determined to lose weight.”
With a chip on his shoulder and eating less chips and salsa, Chambers watched the weight fall off this summer.
“I stopped eating such large portions,” Chambers said about cutting the weight. “So when I’m full I just stop eating and, of course, you still have cravings but it's not so bad. The weight just came off especially because of all the working out I was doing.”
The timing of his meals also played a role in the dramatic weight loss.
“I never went to bed on a full stomach, so even if I went out at night and had something to eat, when I got home I would run a mile on my treadmill in my apartment, and sometimes that would be at midnight or so,” Chambers said.
Now, he’s in position to lead an offensive line that must improve if the Rams want to contend in the CIAA. Chambers, who started all nine games last season at guard, was moved to center in the spring and has grabbed the job already during the preseason.
Lawrence Kershaw, the offensive coordinator who also coaches the offensive line, said Chambers set a great example for his fellow linemen this summer with his dedication to shedding the pounds.
“That’s a great job by him,” Kershaw said. “Because at the end of last season I told him his goal should be to drop 25 pounds, and he went ahead and dropped around 40 pounds. He came back in great shape. He should be an all-conference player, and he’s a good athlete.
“Now that he’s lost the weight he’s just going to be that much better for us. So I’m looking forward to him having a great season for us.”
Chambers along with Elliott Baldwin and Kendyl Graves played a lot last season for the Rams and are slated to return to help protect quarterback Dominique Graves. Also Najee Wilson and Jalien Shaw have been running with the first team. Others pushing for playing time are Michael Hudson, Joshua Peoples and Jared Eure.
Robert Massey, the interim head coach, says Chambers stood out all summer among those who stayed in Winston-Salem, and it carried over into preseason camp. Chambers has been constantly leading the linemen in sprints during practices.
“That’s something you want to see,” Massey said. “A year ago we were cussing and fussing at him and now he’s really trying to help all of his teammates with his leadership. It’s a tribute to him to drop that weight and be committed.”
What Massey is also pleased about is that Chambers is thinking about life after football.
“He needs to be goal oriented, and I think that’s going to serve him well after football because you want to live a long time and seeing him do this now is good for our team, sure, but it’s also good for his long-term health,” Massey said.
Chambers says he’s encouraged by the play of this fellow linemen and is pleased that there is depth being built for the long season.
“We just need to come together as a line and listen to our coaches,” Chambers said. “I think (Robert) Massey is really setting the tone with discipline and we needed that. Being in shape and being disciplined is going to help us all season long.”
After dropping the weight, Chambers didn’t have to buy a new wardrobe.
“No, I didn’t have to get new clothes,” he said, “but the clothes that I have sure do fit a little better.”