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Winder football star impresses at Georgia State, looks to play early

All blue, all in

POSTED: July 2, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Former Bulldogg Chandon Sullivan works out during his first month as a member of the Georgia State University football team. Sullivan will likely play corner, but head coach Trent Miles says he could play anywhere depending on need.

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One Winder-Barrow Bulldogg has traded in his red and black for Georgia State blue as Chandon Sullivan’s career as a college football player is already underway.

The former standout played running back and defensive back for the Doggs until his graduation in May of this year, and now he has the rare chance to live out a common dream. 

After officially signing with the Panthers on National Signing Day 2014, Feb. 5, Sullivan became the first Winder-Barrow graduate to sign a Division I football scholarship since the class of 1997, which featured Jason Austin signing to play for Memphis and Matt Sorrells signing to play for Georgia.

On Aug. 27, Sullivan’s career will move from putting a signature on a line to putting his toes on the line in a heartbeat as Georgia State opens their season against Abilene Christian in the Georgia Dome for the first college football game of the season anywhere in the country.

“I feel like I’m going to be really nervous, almost sick to my stomach, but once that first snap is over that at the end of the day, it’s just football, and I’ve been doing this all my life. Hopefully I’ll just get acclimated and adjusted real fast and have fun,” Sullivan said.

Georgia State started summer workouts on June 9 and has been running at full speed since then. For most of the summer, players have been working on conditioning and strength training in order to get up to playing shape by the Aug. 27 debut.

“I’d love to see him contribute, but I’m not counting on all freshmen,” Georgia State’s head football coach Trent Miles said. “That’s too much pressure to put on them. 

“He has the ability, he has the maturity. We’ve never seen him play in pads yet, but he’s such a good person and such a smart guy and just a high character guy with maturity for his age, he could do a lot of things,” Miles added.

The Panthers will begin practicing in pads come July 31, but the transition to college student-athlete has already gotten well under way for Sullivan.

“The hardest part was just maintaining sports with academics to make sure I could handle my work in the classroom along with my work in the weight room and practice,” Sullivan mentioned. “That was the hardest part, balancing my schedule.”

While college classes offer a new level of difficulty for Sullivan and for all students who make the move into secondary education, the real challenge for Sullivan so far has been the length of classes. Since he is starting in the summer, Sullivan is enrolled in extra long classes that go on for nearly three hours.

“College classes in the summer are really long. My first class starts at 1:50 p.m. to 4:20 p.m., and that’s really different than high school. That was the hardest part was staying focused for three hours,” Sullivan admitted.

Curricular requirements have an added difficulty in college, but the athletic portion of Sullivan’s life also breeds new challenges.

For starters, Division I college football is a much faster game than high school.

As a result of that enhanced speed, Sullivan has had to work even harder to keep up, and he can already see the benefits of that hard work.

“We move a lot faster,” Sullivan acknowledged. “I’m starting to see in myself that I’m stronger and faster and that I’m starting to gain weight after four weeks. From high school to college, the weight training program is much faster. It’s a lot more intense and the coaches are on you way harder, but I’m adjusting.”

Perhaps the biggest adjustment Sullivan will have to make is being more dedicated to one side of the ball rather than moving back and forth between offense and defense.

Sullivan produced nearly 30 tackles for the Doggs in the 2013 football season with 2.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble. As an offensive weapon, he tallied 545 yards on the ground with five touchdowns. Sullivan also hauled in 155 yards as a receiver with an additional two scores.

As a Panther, though, Sullivan will likely see the field exclusively as a defensive back from the safety or corner position. 

“I came in getting reps at receiver and DB, but as of right now my focus has been at corner, so I’m getting reps with the older guys to make sure I understand the skills and the formations,” Sullivan said.

“We’re going to play him wherever we need him,” Georgia State University football’s head coach Trent Miles said of Sullivan. “He has the ability to be a top flight Division I athlete at DB, wide receiver, about anything he wants to do with the exception of the line. Right now we’re working him at corner.”

Although Miles admitted that Sullivan is primarily a target for the corner position, he also listed a number of other possibilities including the chance to occasionally feature as a Wildcat quarterback.

Sullivan is one of four freshmen currently projected to fill a cornerback position in 2014, including BJ Clay from nearby Dacula High School. As a freshman, Sullivan finds himself moving from a position of leadership on the team to being in a place where he has to once again fit himself into the system.

Even though he is once again starting from the bottom, Sullivan enjoys getting the chance to learn from his new teammates and growing as a player with their guidance.

“It’s almost like being a freshman in high school again. It’s a new area, it’s my first time here and I’m starting from the bottom, but I’m starting to adjust to the players and they like me,” Sullivan admitted. “I’m starting to earn their respect and I respect them, so it’s going good so far.”

Sullivan has done more than earn the respect of his teammates as Coach Miles offered nothing but compliments on the character and the ability of the incoming freshman.

 “You’ve got to have talent, but the guys who play right away are the ones with character and maturity,” Miles noted. “If you’ve got the size and you’re mature enough, you can play.”

According to Miles, Sullivan is one of those young men.

“He is an extremely high character person who is smart, tough and loves the game of football. He’s got excellent ability, but he’s a better person than he is anything,” Miles added.

“You can’t find a better player or young recruit at any level,” Miles complimented. “Chandon Sullivan could play anywhere for anybody, and we’re fortunate that we have him here. The kind of mature man of character that he is, he’s going to find a way to greatness in a short period of time.”

Though the new batch of Panthers have only been with the team for a month so far, they have already been welcomed into the program and the culture at Georgia State with enthusiasm. 

“Everything that we do has got to be considered team before self,” Miles went on to say. “It’s about the team first and where we never say ‘I’ or ‘Me.’

“They all start understanding that and they all get treated the same way, with respect, whether they’re a senior or a true freshman.”

As a result of making this fine welcome, the players latch on to the idea of being Georgia State Panthers without hesitation.

Sullivan is no exception, either, as he already knows what he wants to see the team do and how he can be a part of it.

“Of course we want to win after last year going 0-12,” Sullivan noted. “We’re a new program, so we know we’re going to start from the bottom, but we’re in the Sun Belt Conference now and we’re here to compete.

“We have the players, we have the speed, and it’s just a matter of doing it now. We’re ready to win.”

Sullivan was cognizant of that culture change, too, after such a short time in the program.

“It was great coming in to college from high school. Everyone here has the same goals. In high school, there’s a few players who want to be there and a few who don’t, but here we all have the same goals. We all want to win,” Sullivan stated.

Although Sullivan is no longer a Winder-Barrow Bulldogg, he knows as well as anyone that the lessons he learned in red and black and the experience he had for four years with the team helped make him exactly who he is today.

“I feel like my hard work for Winder-Barrow, and how my coaches stayed on me and built my work ethic, has helped me out here and helped me work my way up the ladder to compete and have a chance to play football early,” Sullivan acknowledged.

Even in everything he has already learned and all the work he has already put in, Sullivan has far from forgotten about the people who made Winder home.

“I’m working hard and I’m trying to put Barrow County on the map,” Sullivan said, addressing his family and friends, along with the entire Winder-Barrow community. “I know we’re small, but I’m working real hard every day to put Winder and Winder-Barrow on the map, and hopefully I won’t let y’all down.”

The Georgia Dome, host site of Georgia State’s home football games, will host two former Barrow County standouts on Saturday, Sep. 13 when Air Force brings their triple option attack to town. Former Apalachee Wildcat Jon Lee starts his senior season with the Falcons this year and should play a crucial role in their potent and prominent ground game, which could pit the former Bulldogg against an old rival once more. 

The contest against Air Force kicks off at 2 p.m. 

 

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