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Chandler went from Tiger to Rebel and back again

By Staff
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
He was a 175-pound quarterback and safety at Morgan County High School, but, Johnny Chandler didn't feel he was a great football player. He was therefore caught by surprise when during his junior year he began receiving letters of interest from football coaches at Alabama, Cornell, Dartmouth and Mississippi.
"I felt it was an honor to be recruited," Chandler said. "I really didn't know if I was good enough to play college football. But I sure wanted to."
After showing initial interest Alabama didn't offer Chandler a scholarship.
"It was a disappointment. I grew up an Alabama fan," Chandler said. "I had really hoped they would offer me a scholarship."
Chandler's disappointment proved to be short lived when John Cain, a former player for the Crimson Tide, signed him to a grant-in-aid to the University of Mississippi.
"It wasn't a hard choice for me to go to Ole Miss," Chandler said. "I was thankful someone offered me a scholarship. That way my parents didn't have to pay for college. I'm glad they didn't have to, and I earned my own way."
Chandler moved from his high school position of safety to linebacker for the Rebels after adding 20 pounds to his playing weight.
At Ole Miss Chandler played with legendary Rebel quarterback Archie Manning, who would later become a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Chandler said Manning's personality would surprise most people.
"He got all the publicity. He
was really hyped for the Heisman trophy, but it didn't affect him," Chandler said. "He was the most humble guy you would ever want to meet. He's still like that today. He's just a regular guy who didn't let fame go to his head."
Chandler's fondest memory as a Rebel was Mississippi's 48-23 win over Alabama in 1970.
"That was really special," Chandler said. "We played in front of 60,000 which was a big crowd back then.
"The setting was so special. It was a night game and on national television we beat Alabama in the last year that Johnny Vaught coached. It was a very special game in my mind."
Two games he would just as soon forget also involved the Crimson Tide.
"My sophomore year I red-shirted. So, I was in the stands in '69 when Archie and Scott Hunter had their great duel in the 33-32 Tide win," Chandler said. "It was disappointing because I thought we could have won the game.
"The last time we played Bama was probably my lowest day in college football. I just remember how bad they beat us. We were at Legion Field and it must have been 115 degrees on the Astroturf that day. They were ahead 13-6 at the half, but we just wore down in the second half and they won 40-6. The heat was just awful."
Chandler, who is a Hartselle High season-ticket holder, served as an assistant coach with the Tigers from 1974-79, helping to give back something to the school he loves so much.
"I loved being a Tiger football player," Chandler said. "You really made some lifelong friendships with a lot of your teammates."
In his playing days, the biggest game of the season was against Decatur.
"All us players used to talk during the summer about the Decatur game," Chandler said. "We used to say that if we lost nine games and only won one, as long as that one was Decatur, it was a good season."
Chandler was on the winning side against the Red Raiders two of the three times they faced off during his playing days.
Decatur won during his senior season after the Tigers had won two straight in '65 and '66. One of those wins over Decatur stands out for Chandler as the biggest win of his football career, in either high school or college.
"My sophomore year we beat them at Decatur 14-7," Chandler said. "That was the biggest win I was ever a part of. Morgan County High hadn't beaten Decatur in 27 years before that night.
"The win meant so much to the community and the school. It was just huge. It was so big I can't put into words how much it meant to everybody here."

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