LARAMIE — Sean Chambers needed a change. And if he’s being honest, he contemplated whether or not it would include football.
His first few seasons as Wyoming’s starting quarterback have all ended the same way. One season-ending injury after another took a mental toll on Chambers, who’s lost just three times as the Cowboys’ starter but has only played in 13 games over three seasons because of two fractured legs and a knee that’s been surgically repaired.
Chambers has already proven to be one of the Mountain West’s most dynamic dual-threat signal callers when he’s on the field, accounting for 22 career touchdowns in those games (10 passing, 12 rushing). But once the latest injury occurred on the first series of UW’s pandemic-shortened season at Nevada last fall, Chambers admitted he started to wonder if this football thing was for him.
“Football was the worst thing in the world, especially college football,” Chambers said. “I’ve had so much fun playing football, and in college, three straight season-ending injuries ... I went to a dark place and thought about it.”
Yet Chambers joined the rest of his teammates inside War Memorial Stadium on Tuesday to go through the Cowboys’ first spring practice. He’s healthy again and said he feels no limitations, though he admitted it’s going to take some time to work himself back into playing shape. UW had to cancel its spring last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, so those three snaps against the Wolf Pack are the only reps he’s gotten in a game or practice since mid-October.
And despite his limited success as the Cowboys’ QB1, UW coach Craig Bohl said Chambers will once again compete with Levi Williams to determine whether or not both signal callers might play in the fall, which was always the plan heading into last season before Chambers’ latest injury.
“We’re going to take a look at how they perform this spring, and if there’s a significant separation, then that will answer some of the thoughts that we have,” Bohl said. “If the competition is such that there’s a marginal difference between the two, then we may play both.”
Chambers said he ultimately decided to make another comeback after receiving support from friends, teammates and his family, including his mother, Britteny.
“I talked to my mom a lot, and she said, ‘Nobody’s going to be disappointed if you decided to walk away,’” Chambers said.
Those conversations also reminded Chambers that leaving something unfinished isn’t in his nature.
“I’m not a quitter. When I set off to start things, I tend to finish them,” Chambers said. “I started this back in the summer of 2018 (as a freshman), and I intend to finish it one day. So there was maybe a slight thought (of giving up football), but I knew deep down I need to finish this thing. And I want to finish this thing.”
Still, this spring hasn’t come without an alteration. Chambers has changed his jersey number from No. 12 to No. 2, which Bohl said even caught him off guard Tuesday.
“Sometimes I know he’s got a very determined look and other times he’s got a great smile. It’s super for him to be out there,” Bohl said. “I can tell you it’s great to see him, but I didn’t know who the hell he was. He had No. 2 on as opposed to No. 12, so he gave me a little switcheroo there. But if it makes him feel better, I’m all for it.”
Chambers’ new number has some significance to him since his brother wore it when he was younger — “It was always a big number and a big deal to him, so to wear that number and have him watch me, that’s a cool feeling,” he said — but the swap has just as much to do with Chambers wanting nothing to do with his recent past.
“Just felt I had to do something different,” Chambers said. “No. 12 just wasn’t really working the last three years. It was just bad juju.”
In addition to building up his conditioning, Chambers said his primary objective this spring is to get comfortable with the offense being installed by Tim Polasek, who’s entering his first season as UW’s offensive coordinator. Getting a good grasp of the playbook now, Chambers said, will only help him expound on it heading into fall camp.
Of course, it goes without saying UW needs to get Chambers there with a clean bill of health intact. Bohl said the offense will sprinkle in a live period here and there for the quarterbacks this spring, but it won’t be often.
Mentally and physically, Chambers is back in a good place. And the Cowboys are trying once again to keep it that way.
“I feel healthy right now. I feel happy,” Chambers said. “Just good vibes all the way around.”