By Adam Biggers
Since taking over Clarkston football in 1987, coach Kurt Richardson has seen every type of player imaginable.
He's seen the extraordinarily smart student hold his own on the field, but he's also seen the incredibly talented football player struggle to tread water in the classroom. He's seen the guys in between, too.
However, this year, Richardson seems to have found a perfect balance in Cole Chewins, a 6'7", 235-pound senior who carries a "3.9999" GPA and stars on the varsity team.
"His intelligence level is amazing," Richardson said prior to the Wolves' 43-14 homecoming win over rival Troy. "He's a smart kid in the classroom. But that doesn't always carry over to the football field. With him, it does. He can tell other guys what they're doing wrong--he picks up things like 'that.' He's super coachable. He's just an awesome kid."
That "awesome kid" is also a versatile kid. Although committed to play tight end for Miami (Ohio), Chewins has seen more than a few snaps at tackle.
It may not be the flashiest position, and some players don't always respond in such a positive manner, says Richardson. Going from catching passes and moving the sticks, to taking hits and battling in the trenches isn't for everyone.
But Chewins is different.
In 2012, injuries decimated the Wolves' line, which sent Richardson's staff looking for answers.
"We were saying, 'What are we going to do?' We don't have any tackles!' (Cole) said, 'Coach, I'll play it.' He hopped in there, didn't miss a beat and a had a great game."
Then a sophomore, Chewins demonstrated true leadership qualities that have only improved along the way.
"I was fine with it--just got to help the team out," Chewins said Friday. "We had a couple of guys go down with injuries, so I just had to do what's for the team and help out."
It can take time to adjust to a new position. But Chewins, who also has interest from Ivy League schools, takes it all in stride. He approaches it like anything else in football, and in life for that matter.
"No, not really," he replied when asked if he's had trouble settling in on the line. "With tight end, you still have to be able to block. There's a couple of fundamental things that you have to pick up along the way...that's always just a learning process, just like every other position, just like everything else (in general)."
If anything, Chewins, a top-30 prospect in Michigan, has flipped the odds in his favor. He plans to take the techniques learned as a lineman and further apply them to tight end once he hits college.
"Definitely, I think so," he said. "Especially because last year, we were primarily a running team--that helped, too, with blocking. This year, being at tackle is going to help even more."
Juggling classes, practices and other responsibilities is all part of the daily routine, so, in the grand scheme, moving over a few yards was relatively simple.
OK. So now the easy part's out of the way. Here comes the test: Game day.
"We know people gun for us, but we come out and play our best every week and know that we can't take anyone lightly," he said. "We're never comfortable because we always know that someone is trying to come up and take our spot."
Chewins' attitude, work ethic and know-how helped the Wolves win the 2013 MHSAA Division I state title. So far, it looks as if Clarkston could repeat. That's the goal, obviously, but Richardson gets more joy out of seeing players succeed in life.
Football is a game. The rest is forever.
"He'll be successful wherever he goes, whatever he plays, whatever he does," Richardson said. "He's a special kid."
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