Chandler Wooten returns to football with ‘new purpose’

AUBURN, Ala. – Last October, Auburn welcomed LSU to Jordan-Hare Stadium on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and dominated the Bayou Bengals to the tune of 48-11. Linebacker Chandler Wooten watched his teammates from home and live tweeted the game. 

Wooten wanted to be there – he wanted to play in every game last season – but he made a decision in August that was bigger than himself. He opted out because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With a son on the way, it wasn’t worth the risk.  

Eight days after that LSU game, on Nov. 8, Chance was born. 

“I’m a completely different person,” Wooten said last week. “When you have a child, you’re responsible for another human being, their development, how they view life and just how they grow. It definitely changed my whole entire perspective on life. The small things that used to matter don’t really matter anymore. 

“Every day is a blessing, a new opportunity. You have a whole new purpose in life.”

This spring, Wooten is back doing what he loves. He re-joined the team for winter workouts, which was the plan all along after sitting out, and now he’s going through spring practice for the first time in two years and loving every minute of it. 

Wooten has not played football since Jan. 1, 2020, when Auburn faced Minnesota in the Outback Bowl. And while it’s easy to miss game day and the hoopla that comes with playing LSU or Georgia or Alabama, it’s the day-to-day grind that he missed the most while being away – the workouts, the practices, the camaraderie with his teammates.  

“They always say you don’t understand how good you’ve got it until you don’t have it anymore,” Wooten said. “Just being away from the game for however long I was gone, I definitely grew a fonder appreciation for the game.”

For somebody who had not played football in over a year, there was an adjustment period coming back. Wooten worked out on his own after opting out, and there’s a chance his fellow classmates saw him working out next to them at Auburn’s Recreation and Wellness Center last fall during football season. 

But since returning earlier this year, it hasn’t taken long for the senior linebacker to shake off the rust and make an impression on the new coaching staff.

“There was a little rust on the first part of the workouts,” first-year linebackers’ coach Jeff Schmedding said. “He was joking around that he felt a little bit old at that point, but that rust is off. I can tell you that. 

“From a leadership standpoint, the one thing is guys listen when he talks. A guy that has that ability, you’re trying to make sure that it’s the right message, and it has been the right message. He reiterates what we’re saying. He does a great job of self-diagnosing, too. He’s not one of those guys that’s just pointing at other people. If he does something wrong, he’s owning it. And that’s a big step for everybody when we’re talking about a new staff.”

Per Schmedding, Wooten’s trend both on and off the field is pointing in the right direction. 

Chandler Wooten, FB 2021 Spring Practice

For Wooten, he didn’t have to come back after sitting out a full season. And with the coaching change, he could have transferred and played somewhere else. But the plan was always to come back and play for Auburn, and he’s embraced the new staff. 

“I love Auburn,” Wooten said. “This is where I wanted to be the entire time. When we did get a new coaching staff, I sat down and had a great conversation with Coach (Bryan) Harsin and Coach Schmedding. We just made a transition, it’s been smooth, and I love them. I’m enjoying it.”

Fans will get an opportunity to see the team and the new staff Saturday at A-Day. It might only be a scrimmage but playing in front of the fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium, it will be the closest thing Wooten has experienced to a game in over 15 months. 

The best feeling, though, will be when Wooten comes home after A-Day and sees his son, Chance. It’s the best part of every day as a new father. 

“I love it,” Wooten said. “After a long day of practice and workouts, whatever it may be, you go home and the first thing you see is him smiling. No matter how the day went, I get to go home and go see a mini-me. I’m loving it. I feel like it’s going by a little too fast for me. I actually want him to slow down. But I’m loving it.”

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button