The Knights, as a team, are champions on the field, role models off
It’s rare in this day and age that we in the sports world don’t hear a story in the news daily that depicts an athlete or team doing some immoral, illegal or even heinous activities. From professional all the way down the ladder to even youth sports, those ‘bad eggs’ are seemingly more prevalent than ever.
This is not to say that there aren’t some uplifting stories out there that don’t grab at your heartstrings, it just seems in this world we live in where mobile alerts and streaming updates rule your news – those dishonest and indecent stories hit your desktop, phone or tablet instantly.
Allow me to occupy your monitors and mobile displays with a truly heartwarming, feel-good story about three-time defending North Carolina State Champions – Charlotte Christian Knights.
On the heels of their second consecutive State Title, the Knights opened the 2014 campaign with much expected high hopes and their eyes on a third straight championship. While head coach Jason Estep’s time at Charlotte Christian School has been short (he became head coach in 2008), he has built a perpetual contender year in and year out for not only conference titles, but state championships alike.
“Jason Estep has built an amazing program here at CCS that has produced four state championships in his short time as head football coach,” wide receivers coach Gary Brown said. “It has been an honor to be on this amazing staff.”
The selflessness displayed by that innocent comment from coach Brown is something that sets the Knights as a team apart from others in the state, but especially depicts the kind of moral character the program has.
Take for example, offensive center and Under Armour All-American Brian Chaffin. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound lineman, who committed to Stanford University in June of this year, started the 2014 season at the center position. When starting right tackle Josh Bryant broke his hip five games into the season, it was Chaffin who jumped at the opportunity to help better the team and fill that gap.
“Brian Chaffin volunteered to move from center to right tackle when Josh Bryant broke his right hip,” Brown said. “By doing so, (it) would make the offensive line stronger.”
Chaffin moved back to center for the State Championship game as Bryant would return from his hip injury to play with his team in the title game, in its entirety.
Chaffin isn’t the only top recruit on the Knights either. Defensive back Jaylon McClinton committed to play football for Army while Chaffin’s fellow offensive lineman, 6-foot-7, 260-pound Philip Walton committed to play for nearby North Carolina State University.
The buck doesn’t stop there either, as for the class of 2016, Charlotte Christian has already placed several players on either watch lists or top athlete lists for next season. Headlined by running back Elijah Deveaux, who has already committed to Duke, midway through his junior season.
“We have had back-to-back Under Armour All-Americans and placed no less than 15 players in (Division I) schools over the past three seasons,” Brown said. “We have 19 (athletes) currently on college rosters.
“Considering Charlotte Christian School has less than 400 students in the 9-12 upper school – that’s boys and girls – we have an extremely high level of participation.”
Placing athletes in colleges is one thing. Having them ready to play in their first year on campus is a completely different task – and something that the coaching staff of the Knights has done very well.
That readiness and willingness to help out their respective teams is a direct correlation to the coaching and preaching they receive at Charlotte Christian.
“The seniors led devotions every Monday and one of the coaches gives his insight on the topic from a personal or biblical perspective,” Brown said. “My senior receivers were always supportive and encouraging of the underclassmen all season. An amazing group of young men.”
The stories about the players are endless. What about the coaches behind them? Want to know where these athletes get their great moral character from? Look no further than the guys with the whistles and clipboards.
A long time user of the Digital Scout software, Brown credits one contributing factor of the Knights’ success to the statistical information he and the coaching staff receive when utilizing Digital Scout.
“(Digital Scout) has made it easier to compile and share stats,” Brown said. “I am able to email half time and end of game stats immediately. It used to take an hour to compile, download and email. (Now) I am able to send everything to coach Estep at the half, he has everything he wanted to know within 15 seconds.”
In his nine years of tracking stats with Digital Scout, Brown has not missed a play. When he was unable to attend a game over the past three seasons, Brown had a dad on the phone with him, radioing in plays so he could input the play-by-play data on his iPad in real time.
When he had a heart attack during the team’s championship run, Brown would not be stopped from utilizing Digital Scout and not missing a play.
“(On) November 7, I suffered a mild heart attack,” Brown said. “The cardiologist wouldn’t release me for the state semifinal game that evening, so my wife brought me headphones and the iPad to the hospital, had a dad on a headset, and I made sure the nurses weren’t to disturb me from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.
“Coach Estep had the stats both at half time and at the end and the media got everything immediately.”
The Knights finished the season 11-1, winners of 11 straight and a third consecutive State Championship – coach Estep’s fourth in his seven seasons as head coach at Charlotte Christian.
While their success is something in its own rite, the caliber of young man that the Charlotte Christian coaching staff is building in North Carolina is something special.
“I have never seen players so selfless and expressive of their love for each other,” Brown said. “It really is a greater ‘thing’ than winning games.”
From all of us at Digital Scout – we thank you Knights, for your patronage, your humility, but mainly for giving us something good and wholesome to follow along with each football season and beyond, because as coach Brown says – that’s really greater than winning.