By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports
Success breeds success.
Washington High School assistant football coach Justin Chambers has been a part of some very successful football programs as a player.
Chambers graduated from Pekin, where he played for a Hall of Fame coach in Tom Stone.
Chambers graduated from Central College, which has won a national title and 30 conference championships in football.
?I played on some good teams and I learned a lot from that time in my life,? Chambers said.
He primarily works with the Demons? defense and with the varsity linebackers. He helps fellow assistant coach Kelly Williams on offense ?a little bit with the running backs.?
Chambers is the physical education teacher at the high school, starting his second year teaching and coaching at Washington.
He graduated from Central College with a degree in exercise science.
After his college graduation, he was an associate teacher at Pella and helped with its middle school football for one year. He then worked at WACO for three years and Winfield-Mount Union for two years while they still played 11-man football.
He played defense at Central in a hybrid position.
?We used a 3-5 alignment and I played outside linebacker but it was kind of a blended position of safety and linebacker,? Chambers said. ?It was a lot like the defense we ran here last year.?
Chambers was part of two conference championships in college, including one his freshman year and one his senior year.
?I played on some really good teams,? he said. ?My freshman year, they won the conference title and a couple of playoff games, then my senior year we won the conference title again. We did really well while I was there.?
Those college playing days were part of his favorite memory playing the game and it included a little revenge to the team that had triumphed over Central previously.
?My senior year, the conference championship came down to us and Wartburg. It was a really tough contest, a game that went back and forth. My freshman year we beat them. My sophomore and junior year we lost to them. The junior year loss was by a field goal. That team my senior year was always a fourth-quarter team. I?m sure we drove the coaches nuts with always coming back late in the game.?
There was a reason that the team had the drive to win games late.
?I think the fact that we were a bunch of blue-collar Iowa kids made us keep fighting and grinding,? Chambers said. ?Finally towards the end of that game with Wartburg, we won on a field goal. I think just having that belief and trust in one another that resulted from all the work and and time that we put in is what made us so good in the fourth quarter.?
Chambers graduated from Pekin in 2007 where he played running back and linebacker.
?It was a lot of fun and that?s where the whole idea of coaching and the love of football started for me,? he said.
Chambers learned from one of the best in Stone. The long-time Panthers skipper, who ranks fifth all-time in victories in the state of Iowa with a career record of 332-83-1, helmed Pekin for 42 years.
?He coached my dad, which is kind of cool,? Chambers said. ?My parents were the second or third class that Stone coached for all four years. He had some great teams and was a great coach and I learned a lot from him.?
One of the most important things he learned is also what he appreciates most about the sport of football. That is the aspect of being a team player.
?I think it is a very special game in that it takes all 11 guys to be on the same page,? Chambers said. ?They have to make sure they are working together. When that happens, you build so much team camaraderie and trust among each other.?
Chambers appreciates how a team works and knows that if a single part isn?t working, it disrupts the whole system.
?Even if you have just one guy trying to do his own thing and not doing what he is supposed to, the whole team can fall apart,? he said.
Being a defensive coach, he has seen that it is especially true on that side of the ball.
?You can give up big scores if you?re not doing what you?re supposed to and not trusting the guy next to you to do what he is supposed to,? Chambers said.
Football may be more about the team aspect than any other sport.
?That is what I love about it,? Chambers said. ?You have to be willing to sacrifice some of your own glory. Maybe you won?t get your name in the paper because you?re doing your job and your buddy gets his name in the paper because he made the play, but it still took everyone working together. That way it helps the team out in the end.?
Winning the conference title in college clinched a berth into the playoffs.
?That was really cool and a lot of fun, so I would say that was my most memorable moment playing football,? Chambers said. ?But it wasn?t really a moment, it was a result of all the time and work we put in.?
Putting in the time is a big part of playing football and that makes it relevant to life.
?A lot of sports, you can be a varsity player as an underclassman, but I think that is really hard to do in football,? Chambers said. ?Because of the physicality and how grueling it can be, you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot. There is a lot to the perseverance and grit needed.?
To get to the top of the ladder, you have to start on the bottom rung.
?As a freshman and sophomore, you have to be willing to put in the time and the work,? Chambers said. ?You have to grind it out to get better. As junior and senior, then you can see that success that was built on the foundation that you laid.?
The hours of sweat from the hard work pay off on that special night, just like years of hard work pay off with a special job for a career.
?You get the reward of being out on Case Field on Friday under the lights with thousands of people in the stands,? Chambers said. ?That?s when you get to shine, but you have to go through those couple years of hard work. Putting in the time is so important. As an adult, you have to do the same thing. You?re not just going to step out of college or high school and have the best job or be a superior person. You have to put in the time. You have to put in the work. You have to be willing to put in the time to get better and better.?
His favorite part of coaching is getting to see that progress.
?I like to spend time with the kids,? Chambers said. ?We have phenomenal kids here. They work tremendously hard. They are extremely coachable. It is a privilege to see them grow up and mature. This is only my second year and I have seen growth in the short time I?ve been here.?
The work results in the reward. That shows in Chambers? favorite moment as a coach -- a loss.
?It did not turn out how we wanted but going to Assumption last year was memorable,? he said. ?I think there something to playing in the weather. It was nasty and it takes grit and toughness and our guys showed that. We had to play on turf when we were used to playing on grass. We were playing in really bad conditions, but the kids just kept fighting. Being able to see those guys, especially the seniors we had last year, keep battling was really special. It was a cool atmosphere being a playoff game. It was a back-and-forth game. We scored a couple big touchdowns on long passes. It was a lot of fun and a really cool atmosphere. It was an evenly contested game. It was impressive the way our kids persevered, even though we did not win the game.
?We have some really talented kids here in Washington and it is an honor to get to coach them.?