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Spanish Fork's new football coach has no experience leading high school players. But on the game's biggest stage, he's a seasoned veteran.
Kirk Chambers, a seven-year NFL offensive lineman who played at Provo High School and Stanford, was announced as the Dons' new head coach last week. Chambers replaces six-year coach Matt Christensen, who took a job as one of the school's vice principals.
The 33-year-old has just barely stepped out of his pro football career into his first high school head coaching job, but he's already making an impact.
"I'm pretty tired because we've started morning workouts at 6 a.m.," Chambers said. "I've been lifting with the kids, and it's a long day. But they're really committed, and they've been getting up for it. So far, the reaction has been positive."
Chambers bounced around the NFL during his career, playing stints with the Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. During his most recent tenure this past fall with the Atlanta Falcons, he said he felt the NFL door closing.
During the offseason, he applied to business school and said he had some opportunities in the financial industry. But Chambers decided his heart was in another line of work: coaching. He called up his old friend Christensen, who explained Spanish Fork had a vacancy and the application window was closing in a few hours.
"I wanted to see what it would be like, and I fell in love with Spanish Fork," he said. "The administration has been supportive, and I have a bunch of family ties there. It felt like the right fit."
For the school's part, the Dons will get a man who has played at all levels of football. He doesn't have coaching experience, something everyone agrees will be a challenge. But Christensen said that Chambers has the makings of a leader.
"I've known him for years, and it wasn't my decision to hire him, but I vouched for him," Christensen said. "Coming right out of the NFL, he knows football. And he's such a personable guy, he's the type the kids will love. I told them they couldn't pass up on a guy like that."
The Dons are coming off one of their most successful seasons in years. The team reached the semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where they fell to eventual Class 3A champ Hurricane in a shootout.
Spanish Fork will retain its offensive coordinator, but is hiring a new defensive coordinator. Although the team loses key pieces such as quarterback Hayden Nielsen and running back Christian Taele, Christensen says the cupboard is hardly bare and Christensen will have plenty of returners to work with.
And work they shall. Everyone on the Dons will have a lot to learn, perhaps Chambers most of all.
"I want to make sure I'm bringing the structure and organization the kids need," he said. "I know what kind of coaching has worked for me, and I want to set the culture that will breed success. It's a big growing experience, and I'm looking forward to it."
Kirk Chambers at a glance
• Seven-year NFL lineman, playing for Cleveland, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Atlanta
• Four-year starter at offensive tackle for Stanford
• Played at Provo High School before his LDS Church mission