Reed Chipman was a starting lineman on the undefeated Covington freshman football team in 2017 and the high school coaching staff was excited to get him on the varsity squad the following fall.
Except Chipman decided football wasn’t for him.
“At the time I lost a spark for the sport,” Chipman said. “I didn’t think it was something I was going to pursue.”
As a sophomore, Chipman watched the 2018 team advance all the way to the state title game.
Covington head coach J.R. Kirby, who was the offensive coordinator at the time, had Chipman in one of his classes. He repeatedly reminded Chipman what he was missing.
In the spring before his junior season, Chipman rejoined the program and two years later he signed a football scholarship with Bethel University.
“Sophomore year is a hard year for a lot of kids,” Kirby said after Chipman signed last Wednesday. “He tells me every day he regrets not playing, but I think he’s made up for it the last two years.”
A starter at guard and tackle the past two seasons, Chipman was first team all-region last season and became the first Covington player in 20 years to be chosen as an East-West All-Star.
In non-pandemic years, those chosen play in an all-star game that is attended by hundreds of college coaches. This year the organizers held a combine instead and coaches noticed Chipman. Mississippi College offered him right after the combine and Harding University expressed interest, but Chipman decided to join former teammate Myles Stark at the four-year school in McKenzie, Tenn.
“He was a leader on that offensive line for sure,” Kirby said. “I’m very proud of him and I know he’s going to do good things and represent this program in the right way.”
Kirby pointed to Chipman’s work in the class room as a huge reason why the lineman is going to continue his career at the next level. He said many other Covington players, past and present, have the talent to play in college but don’t take care of their academics.
“There’s a reason they don’t go. They don’t taking being a student-athlete seriously,” Kirby said. “It’s not my job to get them a scholarship. It’s my job to open the doors for them. At the end of the day it’s their responsibility, along with their parents, to do what they’re supposed to do in the school building. It’s one thing to do enough and get by at Covington High School, but it’s another thing if you want to go the next level. Reed has done all that. He’s taken it seriously. That’s why he’s signing to play a college sport.”
Three years ago the prospect of Chipman playing college football seemed far-fetched.
“I remember we played Westview at home during junior year and coach brought in Myles (Stark), Marcus (Hayes) and me and said, ‘The UT-Martin coach is looking at y’all specifically,'” Chipman said. “At that moment I was like, ‘I actually have the potential to go to the next level.’ After that it pushed me more to keep working and try to provide the best future for me and my family.”