When the Cougar football team took team photos on Wednesday inside the Indoor Practice Facility, former BYU receiver O’Neill Chambers was watching from just outside. Following the photo session and questions from the media, Coach Mendenhall walked outside and could be seen joking around with Chambers.
Although it is not final, Mendenhall said Chambers may soon rejoin the team. Chambers had a few eye-popping kick returns as a Cougar, but this return would be his biggest.
It’s a far cry from a little more than a year ago. Chambers, then a junior, first served a two-game suspension early on in the 2010 season, and then came back before being suspended indefinitely. He had been in trouble several times throughout his Cougar career because of his attitude.
Chambers made disparaging comments about his teammates to the media as a true freshman in 2008, leading BYU to forbid the media from talking to freshmen until they played their first game.
He was also kicked out of practice on at least one occasion in 2010.
Following the indefinite suspension, Mendenhall told the media last year that Chambers would be transferring.
But he never did transfer, instead opting to stick it out at BYU despite the loss of his scholarship.
“He had a chance to be released, and was released and had a chance to go anywhere he wanted to go, and he won’t go; he wants to be here,” said Mendenhall last April during spring camp. “It’s quite a statement.”
Chambers could be seen in attendance at team practices from time to time over the course of the past year, albeit as a spectator rather than a participant. He would, however, counsel teammates on their technique on occasion.
Having not previously used his redshirt year, Chambers has the opportunity in 2012 to get his senior season back.
“I keep really close tabs on O’Neill, and he’s doing well, he’s maturing, he’s growing in a lot of different ways,” said Mendenhall on Wednesday, “and really the whole decision of removing football was to help him define who he is without it. And I think he’s making a lot of progress, and there’s a chance he can rejoin us in January, again, still as a walk-on and still kind of earning his stripes, but he’s on track to do that.”
Previously, there had been talk that Chambers could be switched from receiver to safety, specifically free safety.
“Haven’t decided for sure yet, but receiver or safety is where he’ll play,” Mendenhall said.
Chambers has 40 career receptions for 466 yards and two touchdowns at BYU. He also has 1,611 kick return yards, a school record, and 236 punt return yards. His 809 kick return yards as a freshman were a single-season BYU record until Cody Hoffman surpassed that with 838 this year.
Should he play next season, Chambers could have the opportunity to fulfill the promise he made as a freshman to return a kick for a touchdown.