Chatman leaves hard wood, hits gridiron


Jason Howell

Eastern basketball’s senior guard Dylan Chatman graduates with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology this semester, but will take his fifth year of athletic eligibility to the football team. Chatman is walking on to play cornerback for the Panthers.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Eastern senior guard Dylan Chatman has decided he is not done playing college sports even though his college basketball career is over. This spring, Chatman walked on the Eastern football team as a cornerback and has impressed the coaching staff with his abilities.

“He’s really done well this spring. I’ve been really pleased with his physicalness,” head coach Kim Dameron said. “I think he’s taken to it extremely well, and I’ve been very pleased by what I’ve seen out of him.”

Eastern cornerback coach Tony Gilbert was the first coach Chatman met with about making the conversion to football. Gilbert was at the Panthers’ last game of the year, against Evansville, and liked what he saw from Chatman.

“He had a lot of man-man defensive skills, which is what cornerbacks need to do,” Gilbert said. “Our strength coach knew that he was going to be a graduate student next fall and recommended I go after him.”

Chatman walked onto the team once basketball season ended, and he said the game comes naturally to him, which is why he has been able to adapt on the gridiron.

“What I’m doing out there right now is like natural,” Chatman said. “I can make up for my mistakes with my ability.”

Gilbert pointed out to Chatman that his footwork separated him from most players at his position, in that Chatman has the ability to shuffle his feet without crossing over.

That skill set has been a part of Chatman’s defensive techniques in the last two years for the Panther basketball team, especially when he was assigned to guard the best player from every opponent.

“I felt I was always on an island, just me and them playing by ourselves,” Chatman said. “That’s just the way it is, when I’m guarding a wide receiver.”

However, the Eastern defensive backs also have an advantage of their own over Chatman. Their experience with the technical aspects of the game, such as backpedaling and footwork, is something Chatman is a little behind on. That is something he wants to improve on in summer practices, as well as another goal he wants to accomplish.

“I want to be able to read the defense, so I can make the play calls myself, without relying on somebody else to give me the reads,” Chatman said. “Once I catch up on that, I think I should be all right.”

Gilbert agreed Chatman’s footwork is something that needs to improve. He believes with time and effort, Chatman will improve and become a vital part of the Panthers’ defense.

“Once his strength and footwork improve, he’ll be fine,” Gilbert said. “He hits and he’s always used to playing on an island, in basketball.”

Chatman was a part of the Eastern defense that won last week’s spring game, 43-38. He played on the second string defense and made a pair of tackles. He said he was not aware the coaching staff saw him as an aggressive player, but Dameron has noticed his skill in that area.

“I’ve been really pleased with his physicalness,” Dameron said. “We know he can guard since he’s a man-to-man guy and all that. He’s been a good addition to here.”

This is the first time Chatman has played football since his sophomore year, but he said football was his first favorite sport to play.

Chatman is planning on graduating this semester with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but he discovered he has one year of athletic eligibility left. The football season coincides with his fall plans as he is working on gaining a master’s degree in family and consumer sciences.

“It’s definitely fun, and it’s like I can do it all over again, even though I’ve played before but it’s been a while since I played,” Chatman said. “I never thought I would put on pads again.”

Chatman and the Panthers have ended spring practice, and will return to the field this fall in preparation for its first game of the season on September 3 at Western Illinois.

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].