The Covington Lions have had their fair share of great runners dating back to guys like former New Orleans Saints running back Vincent Alexander and guys more recently like Edgerrin Cooper, who currently plays linebacker for the Texas A&M Aggies, and the program’s all-time leading rusher Devin Brumfield, who played at Utah and Tulane. Now, the Lions have another very talented running back that is looking to make a lot of noise this upcoming season, and his name is Justin Chatman.
Chatman emerged as a standout player for the Lions dating all the way back to his freshman year. In his first two years, he earned All-District honors twice and All-Parish his sophomore year. He not only got the chance to contribute to the varsity team at an early age, but he was one of the team’s best players early on. It makes a lot of sense as all Chatman had known was football dating back to when he was only four years old.
“I have been playing football since I was four. When I was like five, I used to get the tosses and get to the sidelines where nobody could catch me. I always imagined when I was older how good I could be.”
Nicknamed “Speedy,” Chatman often showcased his speed on the gridiron.
“When I played 7 on 7 and kept scoring on hitches and stuff, they kept on referring to me as “Speedy”, and I always thought that was a good name.”
His nickname may be speedy, but for this 5’10, 185 pound running back, vision is the name of the game.
“My vision and my explosiveness. Once I get past the line, nobody is catching me, but I really attribute that to my vision.”
Whether it is speed, explosiveness or vision as the contributing factor, Chatman kept on making plays not only at running back, but as a receiver coming out of the backfield. That is an area of his game that he has always been working on.
“At the college level, they are looking for a running back that can catch out of the backfield and can line up in the slot. Because of that, I have been working hard on my route running.”
He has also watched a lot of film on former Oregon superstar De’Anthony Thomas on how to be that X factor in multiple different areas of the game.
“I grew up watching De’Anthony Thomas and right when I past the line of scrimmage, I do the duck thing he used to do.”
In his sophomore campaign, the versatile Covington playmaker had 1,042 yards and six touchdowns on 172 carries for a 6.1 yards per carry average while also adding 243 yards and four touchdowns receiving on 19 catches.
It looked as though Chatman was going to explode for an even better junior campaign in 2022 after two big statistical showings in the first two games of the season, but an injury kept him out the rest of last season. As disappointing as it was to have his once promising season end prematurely, it also gave the All-Parish running back even more motivation to show the entire state what he is capable of doing this upcoming 2023 season.
“I went through a lot, but it helped me push forward and focus on having a great senior season knowing that I missed a lot of my junior season. It has pushed me harder and it has taught me to grind harder each and every day.”
Now, 100% healthy, that hard work has already paid off after a great showing at Gridiron Football’s first Elite Camp of the off-season. Chatman ran good times in the combine portion of the camp before putting on a good show at the 1 on 1 competition drills towards the end of the camp. For Chatman, showing off his skills at the Gridiron Football Camp while getting the opportunity to learn was most satisfying to him.
“It was a great opportunity to come out and showcase my talents, but also get to know new people and learn. Learning and breaking down how to do the shuttle was great because I never got to do the shuttle. Overall, I just wanted to learn some new things and showcase my talent.”
However, it turned out that Chatman got more than he bargained for when it was announced that after the camp, Gridiron Football CEO Andy Bryson surprised the Covington running back by inviting him to play in the Gridiron Football All-American Bowl Game at the end of the year.
“It felt great because most of my life, I felt like that I have been overlooked. It felt great to get accepted for my work. I was just sitting there and he called me up saying that I just earned the right to play in the bowl game. Right before that, I was talking to one of the kids and I said, “Look at those rings on his finger, and that I wanted one of those.” When he called me up, I was like “dang.” That was crazy!”
Getting invited to the Gridiron Football All-American Bowl Game was a great jumpstart to the 2023 year. Now, Chatman is pursuing college offers. He has received some interest from colleges, but not yet any offers. With some great showings at the next couple of camps, he is hoping that will get the ball rolling on getting some scholarship opportunities.
“I am going to the LSU camp and a lot of the big camps. I have a visit at Troy, and I am pretty sure that I am going to go back to Tulane. I am also going to Syracuse, UTSA, and Texas in the last week.”
So far, Chatman has really liked his Tulane visit and what the program has done after their impressive 2022 season, which included a Cotton Bowl victory.
“I have been very impressed with my Tulane visit. I have a friend there named Iverson Celestine that is a running back there. He took me on my visit and showed me around a lot. Everybody is welcoming you and it is really a great place.”
Chatman also is not lacking confidence as he is going for some schools records his senior season including the records set by a star Covington running back that he grew up watching.
“Growing up and watching Devin Brumfield play makes me want to beat his records. That’s another reason why I am going all out this year.”
Chatman would need to have a monster year to have a chance to beat Brumfield’s all-time touchdown record of 77, but seeing how some of these star running backs have been accounting for 50 touchdowns in a season just the past couple of seasons, he believes that he could give the record a run for its money in 2023.
“I was watching a lot of running backs from this year and I have been seeing some of them have 50 touchdowns in a season. That is the type of season that I want to have.”
Interestingly enough, Chatman is also going after his grandfather Paul Nixon’s rushing records at Covington as well. Fueled by motivation to play at the next level along with the desire to break multiple school records this upcoming season makes Justin Chatman a name to keep an eye out for in the state of Louisiana.
“They should be ready. I am coming for everything this year. With my mindset, all I am going to say is watch out for me.”