Patience and a tremendous amount of hard work have Gainesville High graduate Chandler Staton in line to chase his dreams of kicking in the NFL.
Situations with bizarre adversity, which he can finally laugh about now but were not funny at the time, are all part of a bigger puzzle during his successful six-year career at Appalachian State.
On Oct. 20, it all reached a pinnacle as the former Red Elephants’ standout made the game-winning, 24-yard field goal as the Mountaineers beat No. 14 Coastal Carolina 30-27 in Boone, N.C.
“That was the moment you look forward to as a kicker and the reason I work so hard every day,” said Staton, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chandler’s father, John, was on the sidelines to soak in the moment. John, a battalion chief with the Gainesville Fire Department, has since seen his son become a well-rounded young man, since he first started tinkering with kicking in high school.
There were times when Staton, who already has one college degree and is working on his second degree in business at App State, could have hung it up and moved on with life.
However, kicking is what Chandler feels is his calling.
And after the kick sailed through the uprights, Staton was right there on the field as a storm of fans streamed onto the field to celebrate beating a ranked opponent on their home field.
With the made kick, Staton is 55 of 71 on field goals in his career at App State, and now stands at second in career points in school history (404).
His ‘super senior’ season is going exceptionally well for the Mountaineers. Staton’s 11 of 11 on field goals and has hit all 24 extra point tries.
And now, Staton, and his fiancé Maria, who will wed April 2, 2022 in Dahlonega, are making every sacrifice so he can chase his dreams of making it to the NFL.
They have the wedding date set so as to not interfere with the NFL Draft.
The couple, who met on campus at App State, also don’t want it to interfere with any honeymoon plans.
The only unknown is when App State will hold its Pro Day for league scouts. They have backup plans with their trip insured, should he need to be in Boone, N.C. at that time to show off the strength and accuracy of his right leg, Staton said.
“She has everything planned out,” he said.
Next year, Staton fully anticipates being in the NFL, so his soon-to-be-wife will not have to be the bread winner in the house. Currently, Maria has a good-paying, full-time job with Amazon.
She handles all the bills, Staton said. Plus, he’s no longer on scholarship for his final season with the Mountaineers.
However, Staton feels like he’s really turned the corner in chasing his life-long dream of kicking professionally. In high school, he gave up his first love, soccer, to focus on football. Chandler’s father got his son connected with Hall of Famer Morton Anderson when he was in high school.
The feedback from the former Atlanta Falcons kicker was eye opening.
“(Anderson) said, ‘I’ve never seen someone turn a ball like that so naturally,” Chandler’s father said.
Even though he was lightly recruited with the Red Elephants, Staton jumped at the opportunity to be a preferred walk-on for the Mountaineers.
Then, in 2016, a wild chain of events took place when Staton was gearing up for his first season of college.
Even though he was planning on red-shirting, he was preparing to travel with the Mountaineers to the season opener against Tennessee in Knoxville.
Staton was all ready to go on the road after a long summer of work. It was, naturally, one of the most exciting times in his young life.
Then, the day before the game, Staton was informed there was an issue with his high school transcript.
So, he went to the academic office and found out he was ineligible, at least temporarily.
“At the time, I didn’t know what to think,” Staton said.
Perplexed about having issues with his high school transcript, Staton did the only thing he knew to do: drive home and find out what was going on.
On his way home, Staton stopped off at Young Harris College to stay with the girl he was dating at the time.
The following day, he watched the game on his phone as App State’s kicker struggled, Chandler said.
Naturally, Staton couldn’t help but get angered while watching the game, wondering if his chance would have come to get in the game, had he been allowed to make the trip.
However, as Staton found out in recent years, things in life have a funny way of working out.
In his case, it was a clerical error with his transcript, which he found out the following Monday morning when he showed up at Gainesville High.
His transcript erroneously had 2017 for the graduation date.
Once the mistake was identified, it was promptly changed to reflect 2016 as his graduation date, Staton explained.
Staton would go on to redshirt the rest of the season, which made it possible to have an extra year of eligibility, following the coronavirus pandemic granted another season.
Had it not been for that human error at Gainesville, Staton doesn’t see things lining up so promising going forward at App State.
“That would have changed whole dynamic,” Staton said. “When I look at it like that, it really changes things.”
In 2017, Staton finally hit the field and made an immediate impact, connecting on 8 of 9 field goals, including a career-best 53-yarder against Georgia Southern.
However, Staton said his first experience with setback on the field came with missing a field goal in the Dollar General Bowl.
Then in 2018, Staton was discouraged by missing a game-winning attempt of 57 yards at Penn State.
Despite the mental hurdles Staton had to overcome, he never lost his job.
As a sophomore, he was good on 12 of 16 field goal attempts. Then in 2019, Staton made 11 of 16 tries.
During the 2020 season, Staton made 13 of 19 field goals, most notably being good from 44 and 45 yards against Coastal Carolina.
The other totally unexpected surprise in college, for Staton, was meeting his future wife.
She was football equipment manager when they became acquainted his freshman season.
As he tells it, this was not love at first sight.
Staton liked to stay after practice and kick extra balls. It was school policy to have an equipment manager on hand, which was Maria.
So for about an hour each day, she would shag balls for the young kicker.
“She did not like me,” Chandler said. “She would just throw the balls at my feet.”
Eventually, Chandler’s relationship faded with his high school sweetheart.
Then, he took a liking to Maria, first going on a date to a concert together.
Now, they are joined together in his desire to make it to the NFL in the pressure-packed profession of kicking.
“If I hadn’t met her, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Chandler said.