Former Iowa tight end Scott Chandler was a relative unknown through the first three seasons of his NFL career.
Four different teams.
Released four times.
Fast forward to the 2011 campaign — Chandler’s fourth season in the NFL — and the Buffalo Bills tight end has suddenly evolved not only into a pass-catching threat, but one of the league’s biggest surprises through two weeks of play.
The former Hawkeye hauled in a team-leading five catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns in the Bills 41-7 Week 1 blowout win over the Kansas City Chiefs, and had two receptions for 16 yards and one touchdown in a 38-35 Week 2 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Chandler’s three receiving touchdowns are tied for third-best in the league through the first two weeks of the season.
What has been the difference for the 6-foot-7, 263-pound tight end this year?
How does a player who hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since 2006 — Chandler’s senior season at Iowa — snag three receiving scores in the first two weeks of the NFL season?
The solution is simple. It’s a combination of staying healthy and taking advantage of being on the right team at the right time.
“For me, it was really exciting to go out there and get a chance to play,” Chandler told reporters after his two touchdown performance in Week 1. “I’ve had some down times in the last four years, but this really makes it worth it.”
A fourth round pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 2007 NFL Draft, Chandler was instantly put in a situation where success would have been difficult for even the best collegiate tight end.
The Chargers already had a prolific, play-making tight end in Antonio Gates, who in 2007 had already been to three Pro Bowls. Chandler played in only one game with the Chargers in his rookie season, then spent all of 2008 on injured reserve before being released.
Two stints with the Cowboys and one with the Giants also proved unsuccessful. Despite appearing in nine games for Dallas in 2010, Chandler was once again on a squad who already had a top tier tight end — seven-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten.
Chandler didn’t sit back and feel sorry for himself, however.
“As frustrating as those four years were, they weren’t a waste,” he said in an article in the Times-Union. “There’s a lot to learn from those guys, and I soaked up as much as I could.”
The former Hawkeye joined the Bills in 2010 — the perfect locale for a tight end with something to prove.
“Successful tight end” isn’t a phrase uttered often in Buffalo.
In the previous two seasons, Bills tight ends have combined to catch only two touchdown passes.
Chandler is the first Buffalo tight end to catch two touchdowns in a road game since 1992, the first with five catches in a game since 2009, and the first to amass at least 63 receiving yards in a game since 2008.
The former Hawkeye will surely garner more attention as the 2011 NFL season progresses, forcing him to step up and show he can still be a viable offensive threat now that he’ll actually be listed in opponents’ scouting reports.
While he may not lead the league in catches or touchdowns this season, Chandler has accomplished what he’s set out to do since becoming a professional football player.
Prove he belongs.
“I made a decision after I got cut the first time that I was going to do this until nobody called,” Chandler said in an article in The Buffalo News. “People kept calling…Through prayer and reason you come to see that if you can play football a lot of time people will find an opportunity to give you.”