Friend of The Rant Chris deLambert caught up recently with former Lee County Yellow Jacket standout Jayden Chalmers, his father Jerry and his former high school head coach Steve Burdeau to discuss the defensive back’s semester at Fork Union Military Academy in Virgina, as well his decision to play collegiate ball in 2021 at East Carolina University and not UNC Chapel Hill, as had originally been planned. Jayden Chalmers tweeted the news on December 16.

“I felt ECU genuinely loved Jayden from the very beginning. I mean, there was not a day that went by that we did not have mail from ECU,” Jerry Chalmers told deLambert. “On Mother’s Day … We had a box outside of our mailbox. What in the world is this? And it was cards from each and every single player.”

Jerry Chalmers further indicated that the outcome of his son heading to Greenville, while unexpected, seemed almost meant to be in hindsight.

“I just feel like ECU was mint. Coach Houston told him that everything happens for a reason. I told him the same thing,” he said. “And going to Fork Union, he needed that, as far as mentality wise. Not so much to go play football or whatever like that, but mentality wise, he needed Fork Union.”

Yellow Jacket Head Coach Steve Burdeau said the Pirates should definitely see benefits from recruiting Chalmers.

“East Carolina is getting a great young man,” Burdeau said. “He made a lot of plays as a key member of our Eastern Championship team; now he has the opportunity to extend his athletic career and most importantly the chance to earn a college education. We are proud of the work he has put in while fighting through any adversity that has gotten in the way throughout this process.”

This interview with Jayden has been slightly edited for length and clarity.

DELAMBERT: Let’s start with the recruiting process with ECU. So you had an offer to UNC, and I think a lot of people were under the impression that you were going to start at UNC this last year. Talk about what’s gone on in the last six months, and what you’ve been doing over the last six months.

CHALMERS: Over the last six months, when COVID first hit we weren’t doing too much but probably going to the field, staying in shape. Then my dad’s friend, he went out and bought some weights and stuff so we started lifting at his house. Then I was getting prepared to go up there to Fork Union for the Blue Devils football game so I can get it right. Then after that, there’s been a lot there. Then everything football, getting some schoolwork done and stuff like that.

DELAMBERT: Okay. So you’ve spent the last semester at Fork Union. Did they play a full schedule at Fork Union?

CHALMERS: Yeah, we played like – I want to say like 10 games? But I think it might be way more. Yeah.

DELAMBERT: And how did that go for you personally?

CHALMERS: It wasn’t good. I got a concussion probably like the third game or fourth game of the season and I was out for like three weeks.

DELAMBERT: Oh man. Are you feeling better now?

CHALMERS: Oh, yes, sir. I am good. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

DELAMBERT: Okay. So on the field while you were at Lee County, you played offense and you played defense. You played corner on defense and a wide receiver on offense. What did you do at Fork Union?

CHALMERS: I played mostly safety, and then close to the end of the season I went back to DB, defensive back, corner.

DELAMBERT: Okay. Did you return any kicks or play special teams?

CHALMERS: Oh, yes, sir. I played kick return.

DELAMBERT: Okay. So your offer with North Carolina was still intact at the end of the semester, but you chose ECU.


DELAMBERT: Tell us how that went down.

CHALMERS: So basically once I went there, I can kind of re-class into class of ’21. So I can still get recruited by other schools. When COVID hit, they letting all seniors basically have an extra year of eligibility to play again. So, North Carolina, they got too many DBs and ECU, they was the first school that started recruiting me, from the jump for football. So I always had love for ECU. Because at one point I was going to Greenville almost every weekend during my junior year in football, watching football games and stuff like that.

DELAMBERT: So ECU had been involved in the process even before North Carolina came into the picture a year ago?

CHALMERS: Yes, sir.

DELAMBERT: Who was it at ECU that led the recruiting? Was it Coach Houston, or was it one of the coordinators, or, who was it that drove the train?

CHALMERS: DB coach. Coach Lynch. Before that it was another coach named Coach Garrett Riley, but he don’t coach at ECU no more.

DELAMBERT: Okay. Is it just that ECU was the first to show you some attention, or is there anything else about the program that you were particularly interested in?

CHALMERS: They were the first school to show me interest and plus when I was going down there, the atmosphere first. And the first game that they invited me to, they played North Carolina at ECU and ECU beat them. That was like the craziest thing.

DELAMBERT: Okay. Had you ever been to Greenville before that recruiting visit?

CHALMERS: No, sir. That was my first time. That was my first time.

DELAMBERT: Okay. So during the recruiting process last year, a lot of people know that you and Des Evans are really good friends and it looked like both of you were going to be go to North Carolina. How was it telling Des that you weren’t going to go to Chapel Hill with him?

CHALMERS: It wasn’t that hard telling him. We real, real close. So it wasn’t hard telling Des. And that’s all. Yeah, we real close so he’s going to respect my decision. Anything, so he respect my decision. So yeah.

DELAMBERT: So you spent a year at Fork Union, but you still have four years of eligibility.

CHALMERS: Yeah, I did a semester at Fork Union.

DELAMBERT: Okay, you did the semester there. Do you feel like you can get onto the field next year with the people out there? Can they anticipate seeing you on the field, or do you think that you might ease your way into the program?

CHALMERS: Well, I’m going to see the field. They told me I’m going to see the field as a freshman.

DELAMBERT: Okay. And that’ll be as a cornerback?

CHALMERS: Yes, sir.

DELAMBERT: Okay. What do you think the feeling for you is?

CHALMERS: Oh, it’s still good. They was the first school to start recruiting me. So it was basically like, “You got a second chance at that school.”

DELAMBERT: All right. From Lee County, we’ve got players all over the state. Between Southern and Lee County, we’ve got players at App, we got players at UNC, got players at NC State, players at Duke, but we haven’t had any players at ECU. Are you going to be working on some of those young men in the Lee County program to get them to come out there and be Pirates right alongside of you?

CHALMERS: Oh yeah. I’m working on them right now. Yes, sir.

DELAMBERT: All right. Very good. So with COVID, COVID has affected a lot of people in a lot of different ways. You’ve been inside a program, a college program at Fork Union. Talk about the complications and the struggles and how different do you think it was because of COVID and all of that than it would have been otherwise.

CHALMERS: So before COVID hit, I guess like last year, they had weekend leaves. So they were going home, getting to see their family and stuff. This year, when COVID hit, you couldn’t leave campus. So we couldn’t see our families at all. They couldn’t come to campus. They couldn’t come to our games, our home games. None of that. We had to wear masks everywhere we went to, even inside the building. Even in our room. If it was like more than three people in the room, everybody had a mask on. It was rough.

DELAMBERT: Were you all able to get through the entire semester without anybody testing positive?

CHALMERS: Yes, sir.

DELAMBERT: Outstanding. So now that you’ve committed to ECU, you’ll be up there starting next semester in January? Is that correct?

CHALMERS: Right. Yes, sir.

DELAMBERT: And when will spring practice start for you?

CHALMERS: I guess when they all start.

DELAMBERT: What are you planning to study outside of football? What are your academic goals?

CHALMERS: Sports Marketing and Entertainment.

DELAMBERT: So apart from ECU and North Carolina, what other schools got your attention during the recruiting process?

CHALMERS: Syracuse, Georgia State, and Liberty.

DELAMBERT: I imagine your family wasn’t too excited about you going all the way to Syracuse, to play in New York State were they?

CHALMERS: Yeah, that was out of the question.

DELAMBERT: All right. So is there anything else you’d like to share with the people?

CHALMERS: No, sir. That’s pretty much it. Appreciate it.

DELAMBERT: All right. Be good.

CHALMERS: Yes, sir. Thank you.