St. Al’s Tucker beats long odds to earn opportunity with Hinds CC

Published 11:00 am Sunday, May 15, 2022

A couple of years ago, Chase Tucker was just another undersized football player with big dreams.

Sure, he wanted to play college football some day. But at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds he didn’t have the size to separate himself from hundreds of other players just like him.

Fast forward, and Tucker has finally made his mark. A growth spurt added several inches and about 40 pounds to his frame. A strong work ethic and drive honed his football skills. He emerged from the pack to become an outstanding player for St. Aloysius, and from a recent tryout with Hinds Community College to earn a spot on its roster for next season.

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“I’ve been waiting on this moment ever since I started playing,” Tucker said. “Ever since I watched the other seniors sign one of those (letters of intent), I’ve been excited for myself.”

Tucker will be a preferred walk-on at Hinds, meaning he has a spot on the roster but no scholarship. It hardly dampened his enthusiasm for the opportunity, or diminished the hard work it took to get there.

Tucker played linebacker and receiver for St. Al, and had an outstanding senior season at both positions. He led the Flashes with 97 tackles — including 13 for loss — and caught a team-high 29 passes for 400 yards and six touchdowns.

He, like a lot of 2022 seniors, got caught up in a situation bigger than himself, however. Because of the extra year granted to players in the 2020 COVID-affected season, as well as the rise of the transfer portal, many colleges have limited scholarships available for high school players in this graduating class.

“I’ve had college coaches asking about guys in the ‘23 and ‘24 class, and every time I gave them the list and said just take a minute to look at this guy in ‘22,” St. Al coach Bubba Nettles said.

It took a while, but one school finally did bite ­— sort of.

Hinds invited Tucker to a tryout that came with a catch. He was one of nearly 60 players competing for five roster spots.

“I went on an official visit with them, and they told me that since the third-years were there they didn’t have many scholarships available and they wanted me to try out,” Tucker said. “I didn’t figure I’d made it. Then they called me and said, ‘We gave you a chance to show out and you showed out.’ I told everybody the odds and they were like, ‘That’s hard.’”

Nettles, who came to St. Al as an assistant in 2020 and became head coach in 2021, wasn’t surprised Tucker prevailed at the tryout after watching him work the past two years.

“He is one of the few I have coached that I have seen really go after it,” Nettles said. “It wasn’t something that was given to him. He wanted it and he did everything — scratched, clawed, dug in the mud and got everything he wanted.”

Tucker became the fourth senior in St. Al’s 2022 graduating class to earn a college opportunity. His teammates Adam Francisco (Holmes Community College) and Tristan Wilbanks (Hinds) both signed in baseball, and Cooper Madison (Copiah-Lincoln) in soccer.

At a school ceremony honoring Tucker’s offer last week, all of them celebrated with him.

“We’re all super excited for each other to take it to the next level,” Tucker said.

Now, he added, it’s time to take his own advice. Getting a roster spot is just the first step on what he hopes will be a much longer football career. He’ll have to work even harder to keep it, and to break into Hinds’ — and eventually a four-year college’s — lineup.

“I’m proud, but now I have to turn it up to a whole other level to try and get on another team,” Tucker said. “I need to get my speed up, get in the gym, and just work with some of the higher ups on my team.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 139-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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