Talks with Hawks: Episode 21 – Shamawd Chambers

Shamawd Chambers played Wide Receiver for Laurier from 2008 to 2011. He caught 123 passes for 15 touchdowns during the regular season. He was three time OUA All Star.  After that, he played 6 seasons in the CFL catching 169 passes and another 8 touchdowns.  In 2015, he missed most of the season due to injury, but he recovered in time to play a key role in Edmonton’s Grey Cup victory that year.  Another injury unexpectedly cut his career short just prior to the 2018 season.  2011 was his last year at Laurier, but it was my first year assisting with the team, so I really didn’t get much of a chance to know him. Happily, 9 years later I got the chance to learn more about him.

(Dave Morrissey): Why did you choose to come to Laurier?

(Shamawd Chambers): I knew it was a good school.  In comparison to some other schools, I knew people who were going there, I saw people who looked like me there, and I felt like the team was building something special. I knew some other recruits from the Toronto area, and we had a common plan to go to WLU and be successful together.

(DM): What was your most memorable game for Laurier?

(SC): I would say it was my last Homecoming game in 2011. It was a great day.  The weather was amazing. I was battling some injuries, but I had a big game and we won easily. (Editor’s note: Chambers caught 8 balls for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 51 to 16 victory over Ottawa).

(DM): I remember that game very well. That was my first year on the sideline and what I vividly recall about that game was a long touchdown pass that you caught and then something that happened in the endzone.

(SC): The QB Shane Kelly and I had something going pre-snap whenever we saw press coverage. I put my hand in the air indicating for him to throw it deep to me. I ran under it, made the catch, and kept going until I got into the endzone. The crowd was cheering wildly and since it was Homecoming there were hundreds of people behind the endzone. Former Hawk WR Andy Baechler jumped the fence and gave me a jump bump of congratulations.  (Laughing) I went back to the sideline and told Coach Jeffries that I didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t me that got the penalty for excessive celebration, it was Andy!

(DM): A few weeks later, I remember watching the playoff game at Queen’s on my tv at home. You had a monster game, 11 catches for 111 yards and one or two touchdowns called back due to penalties in a heartbreaking 14 to 10 loss.  How did it feel to end your university career like that?

(SC): I didn’t expect my university career to end that day. I thought we would’ve been able to advance to the Yates Cup that year. Having the touchdowns called back hurt us, but I also had a key drop too. I knew my disappointment on that day was going to be short lived because I knew then it was time to focus on my pro career.

(DM): Other than Coach Jeffries, what coaches influenced you the most during your career?

(SC): Getting coached by Greg Marshall when I played for Team Canada was huge in terms of helping me get prepared to become a professional. Chris Jones at Edmonton always pushed me and got more out of me than I thought I had!  Finally, even though I only played 7 games with him, June Jones in Hamilton was a guy I really respected. He had been around the NFL for a long time and as an older coach, he had a ton of football knowledge. The way he treated and spoke to players was impressive.

(DM): Let’s play a game called ‘How well do you know your own statistics’?  At Laurier, you had one career kick return for a touchdown.  What team was it against and where?  As well, when was it and how long was the return?

(SC): It was in my third year (2010) at Windsor and I believe it was 111 yards.

(DM): Very close!  Everything you said was correct except it is officially listed as a 101 yard return. You were drafted 6th overall in the 1st round of the CFL Draft by Edmonton. Did you know in advance they were the team that would select you?

(SC): Honestly, I did pretty much know that Edmonton was going to draft me.  I was looking down south as it was my preference to play in the NFL, but my pre-draft meetings with Edmonton and Calgary both went really well.

(DM): In 2015, you won a Grey Cup with Edmonton and you were selected the Most Valuable Canadian in that game. Did winning a championship in the pros take away any of the sting of not winning one in university?

(SC): It was a surreal feeling.  I had never won a championship at any level of football, so finally getting to be a champion at the highest possible level was incredibly satisfying. When you are part of a championship team, you have to realize everyone has different roles.  In The Last Dance, even Michael Jordan admitted that at different times, different players needed to step up and play a key role. In 2015, I missed most of the season due to injury, but when I did get to play, I did all I could to make a positive impact for my team. I never really compared my Edmonton team to my team at Laurier.

(DM):  So, I know you haven’t played in the previous two CFL seasons.  I heard that you tore your ACL before the 2018 season.  What happened?

(SC):  Yeah, it isn’t really well-documented.  It was the last day of ‘two a days’ during training camp with Hamilton. A lot of the starters weren’t even really supposed to be in camp that day, but I wanted to get some more reps. I was running down the field, and I took a really bad step, walked off the field, and then  I knew something was really wrong. I tore my ACL. I missed all of 2018 and before the 2019 season, I got released and got the news in a crazy way.  Not everyone gets a storybook ending.  I didn’t expect that to happen. 

(DM): What are you doing nowadays? Do you have any long-term plans?

(SC):  Well, I was expecting to be still playing professional football. A lot of things in life are unexpected, but you have to roll with the punches and move forward.  Many things in my life have changed. I am a parent now. I also have a fiancée.  Now that I am not playing football now, I have more time to offer them. Football teaches you much about life at an accelerated speed. They say athletes die twice.  The first time is when your career ends. Being a father has allowed me to become closer to my daughter and fiancée and with many other people around me. My long-term plan is to continue to develop as a man. Nurturing my family relationships is the most important thing in my life right now. I don’t see myself in a traditional 9 to 5 job. I want to create my own future and give back to the community. I am currently working on a number of projects and I’d feel more comfortable talking about them later, rather than now. That being said, one thing I have done is started to focus on a sports training company called Out the Chamber.

(DM): What was your experience like playing for Team Canada?

(SC): It was amazing. I got exposed to all the best coaches in the country.  That’s when I got to know Coach Marshall and many of the Western players such as Michael Faulds. I had met him once or twice before and my immediate impression was that he was a fantastic leader. His energy was contagious. Had he and I got to play together for 4 years in the OUA, nobody would’ve been able to stop us!  Getting to compete with a bunch of my former rivals in another part of the world is something that I will never forget.

(DM): How would you compare playing in Edmonton, Regina, and Hamilton?

(SC): They were all a little different. In Edmonton, I was still a very young man and I was growing. Often I had feelings of wanting to be somewhere else, like Toronto near my home or down south playing in the NFL. In Saskatchewan, we were losing a lot. I mainly stayed in my townhouse and listened to records.  When we did win though, you could feel the excitement. I respect their fanbase a lot. Finally, I was very happy to get a chance to play in Hamilton because it allowed me to play football closer to home so my friends and family could see me play. Being out west for a number of years kind of felt like I was living two different lives. Coming to Hamilton, it was so much fun to be around people I had known for so long.  Being home on a more consistent basis is when I became a more consistent person. It was in Hamilton where I met my fiancée.  Maybe there was a little more pressure playing in front of friends and family.  There certainly were more requests for tickets!

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