Chandler Worthy – from Griffin, Ga. to the Canadian Football League

Reprinted by Author from Griffin Daily News – June 22, 2017

(Hamilton, Ontario) –  There is a tradition born long before young men begin their high school football careers at Griffin’s Memorial Stadium.  It is a legacy of talent and hard work that paves the way for Bear players to embark on a career that eventually leads to the NFL. Twenty players have gone from Griffin to the collegiate ranks to playing on Sundays, an astounding number especially when compared to other schools, such as perineal state power Valdosta which can only boast 13 NFL players.  It is a true partnership of players, parents, coaches and community that makes the team special and other programs envious.

One of those 20 NFL players is 2011 graduate Chandler Worthy, who left Griffin to continue his career in the Sun Belt Conference at Troy University.  Worthy had a successful career as a Trojan with over 1,700 receiving yards, two kickoff returns for touchdowns and even completing a pass. The speedy Worthy thrust himself into NFL contention with his performance at the 2015 NFL Draft combine when he scorched the Lucas Field turf in Indianapolis with a 4.29 time in the forty-yard dash.  His performance at Troy and speed earned him an NFL job with the Houston Texans, where he would catch three passes and get some return yardage during the 2015 season.  After moving from the Texans to the New York Jets the following year, Worthy found himself looking for a new opportunity and made the trip north of the border to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

Chandler Worthy with Troy State

The CFL game looks a lot different than the NFL, the field is longer and wider, there are 12 players at the snap but most importantly, a team only gets three downs to get a first down as opposed to the traditional four of American football.  The rules place a premium on speed and elusiveness which are two of Worthy’s main strengths.  The brand is fast paced and exciting and produces offensive shootouts that are fun to watch.

The Argonauts, which are named for a band of Greek heroes from ancient mythology, were founded in 1873, the oldest existing professional sports team in North America still using its original name.  They won the CFL Championship (known as the Grey Cup) in 2012 but have struggled in recent seasons.  To restore them to championship caliber, they hired a new Head Coach before the 2017 season in Marc Trestman. Trestman, who coached the Chicago Bears for two seasons recently, returned to the CFL where he took the Montreal Alouettes to the playoffs all five years he coached, including two Grey Cup championships. 

When Toronto reached out to Worthy, he jumped at a chance, “I wanted to play for Coach Trestman, so I took a leap of faith and trusted the process.” Last Friday night, the Argonauts played their final preseason game against their rival, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. With roster spots on the line, the Argonauts came from behind to win 23-16. For his part, Worthy played extremely well, catching three passes in limited duty and returning two punts.  Afterwards, Worthy was relaxed and smiling in the winners locker-room. As players showered and headed to the buses with boxes of pizza for the hour drive back to Toronto, Worthy was looking forward to the season ahead. Always a Griffin Bear, he talked about what it meant to play there but also about the changes the CFL has brought.

“I am loving it here, it’s not really that different than American football,” he shared, but each comment afterwards highlighted a nuance in the CFL rules.   After their first touchdown, the Argonauts went for a two-point conversion and attempted a pass to Worthy who was open briefly but grabbed by a Tiger-Cat defender. When asked if he was held, he said, “I definitely was, I wanted to throw my hands up in protest but then I remembered that is a penalty up here.”

Receivers routinely get running starts downfield at the snap, but he shared “once you get your timing down it’s pretty easy.” Most of the rule confusion comes from the punting game, which will test Worthy all season long as the return man.  The good news is that the rules allow a 5-yard halo around the returner which will utilize his speed to make the first downfield cut, but there is an obscure rule that allows a player on the punting team to recover a punt if he is lined up behind the punter prior to the kick.  “it is a crazy rule, if a player is behind the punter he is considered insides. I have to make that read on top of fielding the punt and trying to get downfield.”

As he headed to the bus, Worthy shared “I want people back in Griffin to see this as player who continues to work hard and follow his dreams.” Griffin indeed has a lot to be proud of, Worthy continues the legacy of special players for the next group of Bears to look up to.

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