Lee Chapple was born and raised in Alpharetta and is the first a legacy of quarterbacks to play for Greater Atlanta Christian School. He has returned to metro Atlanta as the quarterback for Buford’s American Arena League affiliate, the Atlanta Havoc. Chapple is a veteran of the Arena Football Leauge and also spent a few years in the Canadian Football League. Chapple and his wife, Bethany, got married just over a year ago. The two have been together since they met at Georgia Southern.
Staff writer Taylor Denman talked to Chapple about being the oldest of four brothers, his experiences playing college football at Georgia Southern and North Alabama and his time spent bouncing around the AFL.
TD: Do your parents still live in the area?
LC: They do. Same house. Same house I grew up in, in Alpharetta. We moved there in 2000, but we moved from five miles away. I’m the only (brother) that has a house here in the Atlanta area.
TD: While we’re on the subject of family, you’ve got three brothers?
LC: Yeah, when we grew up, sports was life, man. We competed in everything, whether it was baseball or getting done with dinner first. We were always competing and there were tons of fights and matches. That’s actually why we ended up moving. We broke all the basement lights in our old house. And instead of putting in new light bulbs, my mom said, “No, I’m not gonna do it anymore.”
TD: Playing indoor baseball?
LC: Playing indoor baseball, football, whatever the season was, we were playing. We got the new house, there was a facility built on the side of the house so we could go in and play.
TD: Are you the oldest?
TD: And all four went to GAC?
LC: So between 2004 and 2014, there was a Chapple playing quarterback at GAC. We’re all two years apart.
TD: Do you guys feel like you’re GAC royalty?
LC: No, but it’s awesome to see where GAC is now. They’re competing every year for a state title. It might be nice to say we had a little part in it. We always went deep in the playoffs. Never able to bring back and title, but it was a lot of fun to play at that school as long as we did.
TD: Was football the only sport you played?
LC: No, baseball was my first love growing up. I played East Cobb baseball, Perfect Game baseball. That was my first love when I was nine. Actually won three national championships growing up. My mom’s rules were we weren’t allowed to play football until third grade. When I was in third grade … I grew up playing quarterback. In sixth, seventh and eighth grade I moved to a different place, different people and I played free safety. I saw the defensive side of it, which I think helped me when it was all said and done. I could put myself in the midset of a defensive coordinator. My freshman year I went to GAC and sophomore year I won the job and started as a sophomore, junior and senior.
TD: So not only did you get the starting job as a sophomore at GAC, but you did the same thing at Georgia Southern. Were both situations similar? Was there ever a feeling you were in over your head at first?
LC: It was baptism by fire, that’s the way you learn. My first high school pass was a pick-six against Gordon Beckham, believe it or not.
TD: Oh, wow. The baseball player?
LC: Yeah, he was playing wide receiver and corner for Westminster. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was throwing an out route, he picked it up, sat on it and took it back for a pick-six. I thought I was in way over my head. Two or three games in I found I could play the position at this level.
I did the same thing at Georgia Southern. I was redshirted. To see a guy like Jason Foster play and have the success he had. He won the Walter Payton award my redshirt year. Two totally different skillsets, but I saw how he carried himself, how he led the team. As a redshirt freshman, I was actually the youngest team captain in Southern history at the time. That was a serious honor and probably one of the highlights of my football career.
You learn leadership skills real quick. Being the oldest of four had something to do with it. You’re always looked up to.
TD: What led you to Georgia Southern initially?
LC: I decommitted from Richmond. I was recruited by lots of Division I-AA schools. … I really liked the guy who recruited me, Latrell Scott. I like the offensive coordinator, but I didn’t have a great feeling about the head coach. Sat on it for a little while, still had a solid verbal (to Richmond). Then Coach (Chris) Hatcher started recruiting me. It was his first class there, and he came with the heavy hitters. The thing he sold me on was being the guy to resurrect the program with such an established history. I really wanted to be that guy, I saw myself as that guy.
It led me to decommitting from Richmond two weeks before signing day and signing with Georgia Southern. I played at Georgia Southern for three years.
TD: So you transferred from Southern to North Alabama. I guess — did your college experience change your perspective of what college football was like when you were in high school?
LC: I don’t know if it changes my perspective. What it did was turn my mentality into thinking this was a business. I watched college football as a high school kid. It’s the pageantry, it’s the SEC, it’s the tradition, and then you get into it and the meat and potatoes of the college season. You realize it is a business. Going 7-4 or 6-5 in Statesboro, it’s not good enough. They fired Coach Hatcher at the end of my sophomore year right after the game we won at the end of the season to go 6-5. I got a text as I was sitting at dinner with one of the wide receiver coaches that said, “Hey, go check an article.” I went to check and figured out it was a business.
But it didn’t change my perspective of the tradition, pageantry and competitiveness. The on-field stuff never changed. I don’t know if it’s politics, but it’s a business and tough decisions have to be made.
TD: When you look back at your college years, what stands out to you?
LC: Being named team captain and a game in my redshirt freshman year I led the largest comeback — at that point in time — in NCAA history against Western Carolina. I think we were down 31-3 in the fourth quarter and we eventually won the game. Got hurt in that comeback, and I think one of the more fun moments I’ve had in college football was coming back three weeks later and beating our arch rival, Furman.
Before the game, coach Hatcher said we’re going to throw 80-something times and light the scoreboard up. We set a bunch of records, we didn’t light the scoreboard up as we’d have liked to, but we sent the seniors out with a really big win. We got to knock Furman out in the process.
At North Alabama I got to play with some extremely good players, guys in the NFL right now like Janoris Jenkins. Those games and going into overtime at Delta State, beating Valdosta twice at their place. You remember like it was yesterday, but you remember the road trips and locker room stuff. Early morning workouts and late nights, all the stuff college football is meant to be.
TD: I guess when you think about it, the games are just that small percentage, but it’s the part everyone sees.
LC: Any football season, you have a finite number of times to step on the field and it’s around three hours. We’ll practice two hours (Wednesday night), two hours (Thursday) and two hours Friday. Yeah, you put in 20 times the effort to play one time, and you get to showcase what it’s all led up to.
TD: Were you ever thinking about arena football in college?
LC: No, and one of the reasons I transferred to North Alabama because I knew (Terry Bowden) and his staff and the tradition they had. I knew I could play for a national title and they had the knowledge to get me to the next level. At that point in time, all you can see is the NFL. That’s what I shot for. I trained with Chip Smith for pro day with 40 other guys. I had a good pro day and was invited to a regional combine. I had a couple workouts with the Falcons, Buccaneers, Panthers, Vikings. Nothing ever stuck. So instead of trying to force my way, I decided I need to get game film.
I went up to Montreal (Alouettes) for three years. I didn’t realize the guy who held all of their passing records — Anthony Calvillo — was their quarterback at the time. I was learning from him. He and (Marc Tressman), to learn from them the way I did was fun.
I went to the AFL and found out there are a lot of good football players out there and the game was totally different. There are a lot of nuances and things special to the arena game. The footwork’s different, the timing is different.
I got some really good experience in Jacksonville behind (Tommy Grady). I bounced around a few places. I had some success in Nashville, OK in Omaha. I decided to go back to Jacksonville when I saw the team they were putting together. Then I found a really good job in Atlanta working with youth sports organization and Dick’s Sporting Goods. I worked with SAP in business technology.
Then I got a call a couple weeks ago from (Havoc offensive coordinator Joshua Resignalo) and said, “Are you interested?”
I said, sure. I’d love to get out and play.
TD: Were you ever a full-time athlete at that time?
LC: Yeah, so from 2012 to 2016, I was just a professional football player, whether that’s CFL, AFL … I was set on getting back to having those NFL workouts and making an NFL team. That was the dream — not to say if an NFL team called right now that I wouldn’t go. It still is a dream, but now it’s balancing a marriage, a 9-to-5 and still having fun.
TD: It’s also got to be fun how well you guys are playing right now.
LC: Yeah, when they called me, I looked at the roster and saw five guys from Jacksonville, Ryan (McDaniel) I knew from (Philadelphia Soul). I knew they had a good nucleus of guys already. As soon as I ran down the roster, I said, “They have a good roster right now. Let’s practice for a week and see what we can do.” We have the best defense in the leauge. The offense puts it together some games. In this game, you need to score every time you touch the ball. If you get two or three stops, you should win the ball game.