Defensive player of year: Camden's Chandler

"I want to make plays on defense . I want to score," said Camden'sSean Chandler, who returned three picks for TDs. CLEM MURRAY / Staff
"I want to make plays on defense . I want to score," said Camden'sSean Chandler, who returned three picks for TDs. CLEM MURRAY / Staff
Posted: December 16, 2013

Most defensive players see their role as preventive: stopping the other team from gaining yards, converting first downs, and scoring touchdowns.

Sean "Champ" Chandler takes a different approach.

"I want to make plays on defense," Chandler said. "I want to score."

A senior at Camden, Chandler was a standout wide receiver and top kick returner for a team that went 10-1 and captured the West Jersey Football League Royal Division title.

But Chandler made his greatest impact as a defensive back. He intercepted eight passes, returning three for touchdowns.

"He's a game-changer," Camden coach Dwayne Savage said of Chandler, The Inquirer's South Jersey defensive player of the year in football. "When he gets his hands on the ball, he makes plays."

A Temple recruit, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Chandler led Camden to perhaps its best season in 37 years.

The Panthers won a playoff game for the first time since 2005. They won a division title for the first time since 2005. And they won 10 games for the first time since the 1976 team went 11-0.

"He was the reason we were able to turn things around as quickly as we did," Savage said of a program that was 1-9 as recently as 2011. "He helped us change the culture."

Savage said Chandler's work ethic and commitment to the cause inspired his teammates.

"He's the hardest-working kid I ever met," Savage said. "In the summer, if we didn't have practice, he would get guys together to work out. And once the season started, he set the example for everybody else.

"If the best player on the team is running extra sprints, how are you not going to run extra sprints? If the best player on the team is doing extra footwork drills, how are you not going to do extra footwork drills?"

Chandler said he was comfortable in his role as a leader.

"I know I'm a good guy and I'm going to set a good example," Chandler said. "I knew I was in the spotlight. I would rather I be a role model and somebody for others to look up to than for somebody else to be a role model."

Chandler made his biggest plays in big games. He returned an interception for a touchdown and caught a TD pass in a season-opening, 38-29 victory over Delsea, the eventual South Jersey Group 3 champion.

He returned another interception for a touchdown and caught two TD passes to help Camden rally for a 32-27 win over Moorestown. He set the tone for a 28-7 win over Group 4 power Kingsway with another interception return for a touchdown.

"I always wanted to try to put the team on my back, especially in big games," Chandler said.

Savage said Chandler's impact on the Panthers will continue even after he leaves the program.

"It's like a joke in the locker room: All the young guys are always saying, 'I want to be like Champ,' " Savage said.


panastasia@phillynews.com

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