Tyler Junior College and the Brook Hill School friends, fans and athletic supporters should be proud as Jeremy Chappelle has decided to join the ranks of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Chappelle, a native of Jacksonville, signed a National Letter of Intent to attend MSU on Wednesday during ceremonies held at TJC.
The Bulldogs finished last year with a 8-4 overall record.
MSU is headed to Jacksonville, Fla. to play Northwestern University in the Gator Bowl, Jan. 1, 2013.
Last year Chappelle aided the Apache run at the playoffs before falling in the semi-finals to Northeast Oklahoma in a 37-35, shootout.
He had six catches for 100-plus yards and two scores in his JUCO finale.
“I was also considering Louisiana Tech, West Virginia, Houston, Texas A&M and Mississippi State were at the top of my list,” Chappelle said.
“First of all, my Mama (Veronica Hunter) loved it, and said she felt like she was at home,” Chappelle said. “And if my Uncle Stacy (Stacy Hunter) who recently passed away) had been there I know he would’ve loved it too.
“Those two things just made it even better, and once I put the jersey on I just felt like that was the place for me.”
An all-star since boyhood, Chappelle was a key component to a successful Apache season this past season, and capped of his high school career with a state title appearance at the Brook Hill School finale.
Both would not have happened if not for second chances, and being with the right people at the right time.
In high school came the first reality check for Chappelle, after starring as a freshman for the Jacksonville Indians.
Two years of awards all-district accolades gave the young Chappelle plenty of confidence. Enough confidence to play as hard off the field, as he did on the field and trouble followed.
As Chappelle briefly put it, “Too much of the wrong crowd, and a much different environment,” was all Chappelle recalled of his early Jacksonville High School successes.
Off-field complications led Chappelle to being released from JHS athletics, with Chappelle finding a home at the Brook Hill School, a private school 15-miles up Hwy. 69 from Jacksonville.
“Jacksonville and Brook Hill are two totally different environments,” Chappelle said. “Not only Jacksonville but I was coming from the hood, Lincoln Park.”
For the first time in his life, Chappelle had to get use to the system.
“We had chapel every Wednesday, I wasn’t use to having something like that,” the wide receiving wonder said, “but I grew to love everything about Brook Hill, it’s a great school with even greater people.”
While at Brook Hill, Chappelle earned two-time, all-state football and double basketball honors for the Guard.
In football, he left Brook Hill with a state finalist spot in football, and one TAPPS final four appearance in TAPPS state hoops.
For head coach, Terry Pirtle at Brook Hill, Chappelle was a receiver, defensive back/linebacker/kick return specialist, setting standards for the Guard that could possible stand for decades.
Chappelle's days as a Lumberjack
That success at Brook Hill landed Chapelle a spot on the Stephen F. Austin State University football team two years ago.
As a true freshman, Chappelle found it difficult in getting sufficient playing time at the NCAA Division I level and became frustrated which led him to make some off the field decisions that landed him in the Lumberjacks' dog house and in the end caused the relationship between Chappelle and SFA to end.
When asked about any regrets about his SFA stay, Chappelle was grateful and very respectful.
“No disappointment at all,” Chappelle answered straight up about any setbacks in Nacogdoches.
Off to Tyler Junior College to regroup
Backing up to hit the books, and a change of venue, Tyler Junior College was always in the back of Chappelle’s mind, and Apache head coach Danny Palmer was already acquainted with Chappelle’s prowess having tried to sign him two-years earlier.
A second shot again for Chappelle and again proved to be worth his word in not letting anyone down.
This past season, Jeremy was all-conference after making 60 receptions for 801- yards, and 10 touchdowns. All that in ten games, missing two with an injury but coming back strong in the season finale loss to Northeast Oklahoma, 37-35 in the conference semi-finals.
Chappelle made six catches for 121-yards and scored twice in his JUCO finale.
But much like when he was making the transfer to Brook Hill in high school, TJC knew of past incidents and Chappelle was just as aware he had eyes on him all the time.
“At both TJC and Brook Hill, I was known as the bounce back kid,” the newly-signed Bulldog said. “They were skeptical about me and I had all eyes on me and I knew that.
“But I gained their respect and they are all like my second family now, and I appreciate them having the upmost faith in me.
“I couldn’t let them down and it made me strive to do better.”
Jeremy's big decision
The playing time should come quick for the lanky speedster, with the departure of several Bulldog senior wide receivers moving on.
“The Bulldogs lost five seniors to graduation this season and MSU was looking to go the JUCO route to sign players that could come in and play right away,” Chappelle said in regard to the anticipated immediate playing time that should be available for him in in Starkville. “So they came and got me, and I’m going into it to start.”he said.
“I loved the school, it’s really pretty there but I liked the way the coaches treated me the most. “They acted like they really wanted me, and everything about the trip was good.”
The loss of an uncle
Always involved in his athletic endeavors, his mother, Veronica Hunter and a recently lost uncle and Jacksonville’s favorite youth coach, Stacy Hunter, were always there with Chappelle until recently.
Stacy was shot to death in an after hours incident at his club in Jacksonville, and as the Apache season wound down, Chappelle played with a heavy heart but a new found inspiration.
“The loss of my uncle Stacy (Hunter) had a major impact on me,” Jeremy recalled concerning the recent setback. “My father left when I was four and my uncle stepped in, but he was more than an uncle to me. He taught me how to be a man, and not only taught me, but he showed me how to be a man.”
Hunter had been Chappelle’s City League coach in football and basketball, and was famous for taking his teams everywhere. His main motive was showing others that it was a better life than what they were experiencing in their neighborhood.
“He (Stacy Hunter) installed that killer instinct in me,” Chappelle said of his attribute most beneficial from Hunter. “Most wide-receivers don’t want to be physical but I take pride in being physical, and he instilled that in me.
“I wanted to be just like him, and besides my mother, he had the most influence on my life,” Chappelle concluded. “He was the rock and protector of our family. He always told me that I would take his spot, and he was preparing me for that time, and he would tell me “you the next up man.'”
“Me nor nobody will never take his place… he was beyond great, “ Chappelle said. “But I feel I can carry his legacy on and be a role model for the youth. He would love that.”
So when it came down to the choice of MSU, Chappelle listened to mom, and knew what his uncle would have liked.
Other positive influences
It was several coaches along the way that molded what is turning into a great success story in a time of wrong decisions and turnarounds.
Chappelle insisted on making mention of the coaches that got him to where he is at this moment.
“Randy Copeland was my first high school coach at Jacksonville,: Chappelle said. “He wanted the best for me (and) we were close, and I had a special relationship with his son Clint Copeland.
“Coach Copeland was a good coach but a great man.”
Coach Roynell Bridgeforth was his first basketball coach at Jacksonville.
“He was very close to me, and he understood me,” the former all-star in youth Jacksonville leagues. “I grew up around him and I’m still good friends with his son. He was more than a coach to us.”
Then, two more great mentors came along when he moved to Brook Hill in Head Football Coach Terry Pirtle, and Athletic Director and basketball coach, Wally Dawkins.
“Coach Pirtle is a very smart coach but the funniest man I know,” Chappelle said with that big grin again. “He came in my senior year and we have had a great relationship every since.”
“Coach Wally Dawkins is one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for period, “Chappelle said about one of East Texas all-time leading basketball coaches. “I love the way he coaches, and he is a great man, a family first type of guy, and we are all gonna have a relationship for life.”
At TJC, Chappelle was quick to point out his growth under the tutelage of Offensive Coordinator, Ryan Mahon.
In Chappelle’s words, “Coach Mahon is a do-it all type of coach, and we developed a special relationship, and he'll do whatever he can for me.
“Besides, we made him the best OC (offensive coordinator) in the nation,” Chappelle said in a laughing and joking manner, with Mahon laughing right along as well.
And the relationship with head coach Danny Palmer, of the Apaches was little different story at first.
“We had a rocky start, and I had to earn his respect and it wasn’t easy,” Chappelle said.
“But when I did, I never lost it.Coach (Palmer) is hard as a rock on the outside, but soft as rose on the inside.
“He's a great person I got a lot of respect for him,” Chappelle continued about Palmer. “Two things he taught us I'll take with me for life were "Be on time…. and (do) what's right."
“My mother is a Superwoman,” Chappelle said.
“I don’t know where I would be without her, and we've been through so much. Growing up she was always hard on me, and after every game she would tell me what I did wrong.
“I didn’t understand why she would always say what I did wrong, because everybody else said I played great, but she wanted me to be the best I can be.
Chappelle perked up and got ready to sign on the dotted line with Mississippi State but added one final mom comment.
“I witnessed her change her whole life for me so I could have better,” Chappelle the grateful son said. “So maybe now it’s like I’m repaying her. I love her with all my heart”
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