Before the football season started, Charlotte Christian center Brian Chaffin was one of the most highly touted players in the area, with Under Armour All-America, all-state and all-conference honors.
But just three games into the season – after a 35-27 win over Monroe – Chaffin was asked to change positions after right tackle Josh Bryant suffered a season-ending broken hip.
After 15 straight starts as the Knights’ center, where Chaffin established himself as one of the best in the country, the 6-foot-2, 285-pound senior didn’t hesitate to make the move.
“Coach (Jason Estep) came to me and asked if I would be able to take over the right tackle spot,” said Chaffin, ranked by ESPN as the No. 10 senior recruit in the state and No. 3 senior center in the county. “Of course, I will do absolutely whatever this team needs to win games and play wherever they need me to play. I embraced the opportunity. Moving over to right tackle, I’ve been able to work on some things that I didn’t do at center, and it’s just made me a better player.”
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Chaffin, 17, has been an impact player since he earned the starting left tackle spot as a 240-pound freshman. Chaffin started his first two seasons at left tackle before moving to center last season.
Chaffin is one of only a handful of players who have been four-year starters in Estep’s tenure.
“It’s a true honor to have started all four years on this offensive line, it really means a lot to me,” Chaffin said. “I’ve made tremendous strides as a player, going from one of the smaller guys as a freshman to one of the bigger guys as a senior.”
Estep said he could tell Chaffin would be an important player from the start.
“Brian was one of the first true offensive lineman here that I knew had a great chance to play at a higher level,” Estep said. “A lot of times we have to put a linebacker at guard or something like that. But you could just tell Brian had what it took. He made some mistakes and took his lumps at times. But he also just kept working and kept getting better and better.”
Chaffin, who has made 43 starts, is the anchor of an all-senior Charlotte Christian line with Robert McLean (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) now at center, Dalton Gouveia (6-foot, 230 pounds) at left guard, Hank Bennett (6-foot, 215 pounds) at right guard and N.C. State commit Philip Walton (6-foot-7, 290 pounds) at left tackle.
Estep said the experience of the group is a luxury that he doesn’t take for granted.
That unit is on pace to pave the way for junior tailback Elijah Deveaux’s second-straight record-breaking season. Deveaux had 1,509 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns going into the first-round playoff game against Providence Day Nov. 7. Last year, Deveaux ran for a school record 1,850 yards and 24 touchdowns.
The offensive line has also been huge for first-year starting quarterback junior John Turley, who has thrown for 1,312 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The Knights’ (8-1, 3-0 through Nov. 6) offense averages 226 yards rushing and 33 points per game. The team has won 20 of its past 21 games, the only loss coming to defending 4AA state champions Mallard Creek 28-21 on Aug. 21.
“We take a lot of pride in helping our backs get those big numbers and records,” Chaffin said. “We know the offensive line isn’t going to get a lot of the credit, but don’t worry about that stuff. Our mission is to help Elijah break the school record again.”
Chaffin’s main goal is to help his team win its third straight NCISAA Div. I state championship on Nov. 14.
After the season, Chaffin will be busy getting ready for the Under Armour All-America game that will be played Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., with some the nation’s best high school players.
Then, Chaffin will turn his focus to preparing to go to Stanford, where he committed in June. He is excited about playing football for the Cardinal and also the academic challenge of one of nation’s schools.
“I picked Stanford because I thought it was the perfect fit for me,” said Chaffin, who has a 4.6 GPA. “It gives me the best chance to have success both on and off the field.”
Estep said he takes a lot of pride in seeing his players do well at the next level.
“As a coach, to see guys like Brian achieve so much, you feel like you’ve done something right and been a part of their success,” Estep said. “We have something like 19 guys on college rosters. Every Saturday, I turn on the TV and see my guys making plays. A lot of those guys help put Charlotte Christian football on the map and now Brian is another one of those guys. Every one of our guys who has that kind of success makes it easier for the next guys from Charlotte Christian to do the same things.”