By David Fleet
Bryce Chamberlain returned to the Big House in a big way.
Chamberlain’s, a 2018 Brandon High School graduate and Blackhawk football standout, road to the Michigan Football roster as a preferred walk-on was anything but smooth.
Chamberlin’s story begins on Aug. 26, 2017 as the Blackhawks faced off against the Fenton Tigers at Michigan’s Football Stadium in Ann Arbor to open the 2017 high school football season. Chamberlain, a first team Academic All State player started the game with roles on both defense and offence. In the fourth quarter with the Blackhawks trailing and Chamberlain in at linebacker made a hard defense play in the end zone.
“I landed funny on my shoulder after the hit,” he recalled. “I knew something was wrong but I stayed in the game anyway. Toward the end of game, coach started pulling out the starters and when I came to the sidelines I knew things were not good.”
Chamberlain’s injury was serious.
“I visited three doctors and the prognosis was the same—a torn AC shoulder joint,” he said. “That was the end of my senior year just one game into the season. The results were seven to eight months of rehab.”
While Chamberlain’s career as a Blackhawk ended in Ann Arbor on that August afternoon, his days as Wolverine was just about to begin.
Veteran Blackhawk Varsity Football Coach Brad Zube recognized Chamberlain’s talent both academically and athletically.
“Bryce was one of the top players in the Flint Metro League and a three year starter on varsity,” said Zube. “He lead the Flint Metro League in QB sacks as a junior. He was a good player, potentially an all state linebacker. He had the tools which also included a 3.9 gpa. The combination makes him very recuritable.”
Ivy League schools, Harvard, Yale and Brown were taking a hard look at Chamberlain during the weeks following the season, added Zube.
“But when you get hurt as a senior you don’t get the opportunities had you played the season,” he said. “Needless to say Bryce was bummed.”
A few months passed and Zube recognized that Chamberlain’s shoulder was rehabbing on track. Meanwhile Zube said colleges were giving some very good feedback regarding Chamberlain’s future.
“I reached out to the Big 10 schools,” said Zube. “MSU responded right away but did not have a walk on position for Bryce.”
In February Zube attended a football coaches conference in Novi where Don Brown defense coordinator at The University of Michigan was speaking.
“I waited until the room cleared and I had a talk about Bryce with Brown,” he said. “I sent the film of Bryce’s junior year games to the UM. They contacted us and we went down to Michigan for a tour and an exam by the team doctor. He passed all the tests.”
So last summer Chamberlain along with about 15 other preferred walk-ons from throughout the country were offered a spot on the Michigan roster. The preferred walk-on designation assures the player a spot on the team, however, the player is not a scholarship athlete.
“I was happy to have pads on after what happened at the Big House my senior year,” said Chamberlain, who had beefed up to 6 foot-3 inches and 220 pounds. “The week of the Nortre Dame-Michigan game in August was my first practice. My first impression of Division One college football was it’s day and night over high school (football). It’s all business, there’s an urgency about the game and it’s a very intense pace all the time. It’s not what I thought it would be like, they hit hard and the speed of the game is unreal. It’s 100 percent all the time.”
Chamberlain dressed for the Penn State, Wisconsin and Peach Bowl versus Florida, but did not get in the games.
“The first time I ran out into the Big House, touched the banner with 100,000 fans packed in there it was surreal,” he said. “It was a dream come true. But you kind of just tune it all out. You have to forget about it and focus on the game.”
Chamberlain is eager for Michigan Spring game is April 13.
“I’m working on making the special teams this year,” said Chamberlian. “I’ll be on the field.”
Zube said Chamberlain is progressing as a Division I football player.
“Bryce gets graded every week by the coaches,” he said. “Look for him on special teams this fall. Bryce will be joined by Blackhawk quarterback Mat Harrison who also accepted a preferred walk-on position at the University of Michigan earlier this year. We are very proud of these student athletes.”
Bryce is the son of Tony and Tracy Chamberlain.
By David Fleet