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Chapman living, and chasing, his dream

By Chuck Banning

Publication: The Day

Published April 04. 2010 4:00AM   Updated April 04. 2010 7:12AM
Stonington graduate looking to contribute more as UConn walk-on

Storrs - Ben Chapman had some offers to play at the Division I-AA level (now called the Football Championship Subdivision).

He was also invited to walk on at a pair of Division I programs (now called the Football Bowl Subdivision) - Boston College and Vanderbilt.

But growing up in Stonington and watching UConn blossom into a formidable FBS program, he gravitated toward old State U.

Of course, it didn't hurt that his parents were both UConn graduates, the school offered his major (coaching administration) and he had an offer from UConn coach Randy Edsall to also join the Huskies as a walk-on.

"In the end, this is where I wanted to be," Chapman said earlier this week following a spring practice session inside the Shenkman Training Center.

And now Chapman, three years removed from an all-state senior season at Stonington High School, continues to live his dream while working hard to fulfill another one - playing some meaningful minutes for the Huskies.

"I knew about the history (of walk-ons getting a chance at UConn)," Chapman said. "I knew about Donald Thomas, that some guy saw him in the gym and said, 'Hey, you should come out for football,' and he earned a scholarship and is now in the NFL (with the Miami Dolphins), so I know it's a possibility."

But for now, Chapman - who at 6-foot-2, 275 pounds is the smallest offensive linemen in the program and is the No. 3 center behind starter Moe Petrus (6-2, 292) and Gary Bardzak (6-3, 297), is content being part of a team that has been has won back-to-back bowl games and is a legitimate contender to win the Big East in 2010.

"That's the reason I came here. My philosophy is go big or go home, and if I didn't think I could go as high as I could, why go at all? I know the things I have to work on, plus I've got to keep getting bigger. Not a lot of offensive linemen in the Big East are 275. I'm still the smallest guy here, but that doesn't mean I can't learn from the guys ahead of me."

It's that kind of attitude that makes Chapman a hit with the coaching staff and his teammates.

"He's getting better," Edsall said. "He's a guy that comes out here every day. He loves to play the game. He's a great team player. He's a guy the players like.

"I see him getting better and he's a guy that gives you everything he's got. He's one of those guys that you really enjoy having part of your team. He's a football guy, he's a team guy. He represents all the things that we're looking for."

News and notes

Freshman Leon Kinnard is graciously listed at 5-foot-9, which is one reason a number of schools didn't recruit him as a quarterback out of Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Md. But Edsall believes Kinnard can play QB and gave him an opportunity to work with the first unit during a scrimmage Saturday. Kinnard has tremendous arm strength, is elusive when the pocket collapses and displays great poise, especially when you consider he's only been in school since January. "The thing that stands out to me is his presence on the field and his composure and his poise," Edsall said. "He doesn't seem to get rattled." Edsall said Kinnard is still learning to slide away from pressure and get better throwing angles because of his size, "but so far I like the things that we see."

Edsall has also been impressed with Adam Masters, a redshirt sophomore who was converted from offensive guard to tackle and has been starting at left tackle due to the absence of Jimmy Bennett (knee) and Mike Ryan (shoulder). "He's taken advantage of his opportunity," Edsall said of Masters. "I wouldn't say that he's the biggest surprise of the spring, but I would say he's a very pleasant surprise because he's a guy that has improved dramatically. ... If we had to play today he'd be our starting left tackle, and I have complete confidence that he would do the job... Injury update: reserve tailback Martin Hyppolite (mono) is expected to be in pads for the first time Tuesday while starting defensive tackle Kendall Reyes (ankle) and starting left guard Martin Olivier (blow to the head) did not scrimmage.

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