Howard has a chance to put together back-to-back football victories for the first time since 1982 when it plays host to Morehouse College today, and Coach Willie Jeffries says if the feat is to be accomplished, Curtis Chappell will have to play a major role.
Chappell is a 6-foot, 170-pound sophomore wide receiver who is one of 11 high-potential recruits responsible for Jeffries believing that Miami is a nice place. In last week's 28-21 victory over Norfolk State, Chappell returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and turned a quick Lee DeBose pass on a fly pattern into a 95-yard touchdown.
Earlier this season, against Bethune-Cookman, Chappell returned a kickoff officially 100 yards for a touchdown. He took the kick five yards deep into the end zone, but the NCAA does not recognize yardage beyond 100.
Chappell is the No. 3 kick returner in Division I-AA with a 29.6 average, despite being credited with a one-yard return when his knee accidentally touched the ground on one return. He has averaged 25.7 yards on 10 pass receptions.
One of eight Bison players from Miami's South Ridge High School, Chappell almost became lost as Jeffries attempted to rebuild the Howard program with a dive-option offense. Chappell admits he was unhappy last year. He refused to return kickoffs and was left off the traveling squad early in the season because of both a minor neck injury and lack of enthusiasm, said Jeffries.
"He refused to return kickoffs and that is what he does best," said Jeffries, whose 2-6 team has been playing before home crowds averaging more than 11,000, its best attendance in five years. "We told him he will have to do what we need him to do to help this football team. But we didn't ask him again; we just sat him down and left him home. The next week he came out with a new attitude . . . "
Chappell said he quickly became discouraged by Howard's facilities, which were a step down from his high school, and an offense that favored the run.
"I was unhappy because I wasn't fitting in and I didn't like the football program here," said Chappell, who considered transferring to Jackson State after his freshman season.
Jeffries was hoping Chappell would be patient, and now sees Chappell's deep-threat potential opening up Howard's running game. "Teams can no longer play nine men up close against us like they do against offenses like ours," said Jeffries. "They will have to give us short passes and keep extra men back deep."
Chappell's progress could mirror the hoped-for advancement of Howard's program the next two years, said Jeffr