Mercer football has had only one FCS All-American in the program’s history, and his name is Chandler Curtis. The junior wide receiver from Calhoun jumped into the national spotlight two years ago as a freshman, earning Third-Team All-America recognition after a campaign in which he produced both offensively and on special teams.
But last season, the brightest number on the stat sheet was 42 — the number of snaps he played throughout the entire season. Curtis dealt with an injury-plagued year and appeared in only three games.
But he said he feels 100 percent now.
“The medical staff in there has took care of everything,” Curtis said. “I’m really just ready for Sept. 1.”
As a freshman, Curtis ranked fourth nationally with a 29.8 kickoff return average. He was also named the CFPA FCS Return Specialist of the Year after he recorded a nation-high three punt returns and four total return touchdowns.
Despite registering only 13 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore, Curtis still has the respect of the league’s coaches, as they voted him to the Preseason Second Team All-SoCon squad. But he strives for more.
“For a person like me, that’s a down statement, because I know the ability that I can actually do,” Curtis said. “Being voted that is a great feeling, but that makes me want to push myself more.”
Pushing himself was something he was forced to practice last season. Not only was 2015 a physical battle for Curtis as he dealt with numerous injuries, but it was also a mental battle.
“Since I was a little kid, I don’t think I missed even just one game,” Curtis said. “Sitting out, really, the whole season just felt bad, but I know me getting the mental reps and the snaps just has made me all better for this year.”
And the Bears would certainly welcome an improved Curtis. Without him in the lineup last season, Mercer’s points per game dropped from 32.5 in 2014 to 28.9 in 2015. Their yards per pass attempt also dipped from 8.67 to 7.23 while their yards per play dropped from 6.3 to 5.8.
Head coach Bobby Lamb said the offense lacked explosive plays last season, an aspect Curtis could re-energize with his return.
“We were ground and pound, and then every now and then we would hit a big play, and we lacked [in] that area,” Lamb said.
The Bears ranked fourth in the Southern Conference in total offense in 2015 and will look to improve on that ranking as quarterback John Russ enters his fourth and final year. Curtis said he knows the team has the ability to have an explosive offense.
“I expect for us to be really hard for any defensive team in the country to stop us this year,” Curtis said. “All we have to do is give it 100 percent.”
Curtis feeling 100 percent going into season