Stonington's Chapman returns to UConn football family

Ben Chapman's new job started less than two weeks ago, which is plenty long enough for him to give it rave reviews.

He has returrned to UConn, his alma mater, as offensive graduate assistant, which reunites him with his former college football coach Randy Edsall.

All within an easy drive of Stonington, where he grew up and played football.

"It's great to be back being around coach Edsall and the rest of the staff here," Chapman said. "The energy is great. Guys are working hard. It's fun to be back at my alma mater."

It would be an understatement to say that Chapman, 28, is thrilled to be back in Storrs. He grew up in a UConn family — his parents are graduates — and they still regularly attend football games.

After spending four season at Stonington under coach A.J. Massengale, Chapman opted to join the UConn football program as a walk-on with no guarantee of ever stepping on the field on game day.

"I grew up loving the school and the area," Chapman said. "The facilities were and still are nicer than anything I've visited. And I just wanted the challenge. I liked what the program was doing. The players that we had there at the time were phenomenal and I really got a long with those guys well.

"I just felt it was the best fit at the time."

Chapman, who spent four years on the scout team and also was an assistant to the recruiting department, enjoyed every minute of it. He was part of the program's glory days during which the Huskies won a Big East championship (2010) and appeared in three bowl games, including the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, before graduating in 2012.

"There was a lot of excitement around the program," Chapman said. "We were playing some big-time teams. We went to a couple of really big-time bowl games. It was a lot of fun."

After leaving Storrs, Chapman remained in contact with Edsall. While serving a defensive line coach at Division II Stonehill, he was called about the UConn opening. His resume also includes being a graduate assistant at Div. III Castleton University in Vermont, where "I really got to cut my teeth in the college football world."

His relationship with Edsall played a significant role in accepting the job.

"He's a great person," Chapman said. "He has the most integrity of anybody I've been around. He's going to tell you the truth all the time and holds everybody to a standard of excellence and doesn't really waver from those things. That's the biggest thing you need to develop a program, so I believe in his message and what it's all about."

Chapman always knew his career track would involve sports, but didn't discover his love for coaching until taking a job as a player-assistant coach in 2013 with the Monash Warriors, a football team in Melbourne, Australia. He worked primarily with the offensive line while also playing right tackle and sharing the play-calling with the quarterback. He lived with the team's general manager and family, helping the kids with their homework, and had a part-time job as a laborer.

"It was a blast," Chapman said. "It literally was one of the best times in my life."

When Chapman returned home, he joined Massengale's staff at Stonington for two season, was an assistant for baseball and basketball, and worked as a substitute teacher. He has fond memories of his coaching and playing days with Massengale, especially winning an ECC title and beating Westerly in the annual Thanksgiving Day game.

"He's been awesome," Chapman said of Massengale. "His first four years as head coach were all four of my years in high school so we developed together."

At UConn, Chapman is working closely with recently-hired offensive line coach Frank Giufre. He'll start graduate school classes in the fall, focusing on sports management.

"We're just working hard every day trying to get better," said Chapman, who moved to Vernon over the weekend to be closer to campus.

Ultimately, Chapman's goal is to be a head coach. He added that he's been blessed to have the support of his family and his girlfriend.

Chapman is grateful for all the positive influences that he's had along the way, including Stonehill coach Eli Gardner and Castleton's Tony Volpone.

"I'm probably the luckiest coach in America with the staff that I've been able to work with," Chapman said Friday. "I couldn't be happier with the type of people and type of coaches they are. It's fun to come to work every day. ... I've only been here 10 days but it's been awesome."

g.keefe@theday.com

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