For many, the drama 'Friday Night Lights' was an escape from reality. For John Chiles, it was a way of life.
Chiles is at the Toronto Argonauts training camp trying to win a job as a receiver. That's a far departure from when the 24-year-old Texan starred in high school. He was a prep All American in Mansfield, Texas, as a quarterback and was one of the top NCAA recruits in a football-crazy state. He'd eventually end up at the University of Texas where his position was about to change for good. The reason? The Longhorns already had a gunslinger at QB; the aptly named Colt McCoy, who was on his way to establishing virtually every passing record in the school's history. The switch was made to receiver, a position that didn't come naturally.
"It's more of a mental game at QB" Chiles told TSN.ca. "Switching over to receiver I have to think less and I have to run more. Just understanding the aspects of how to get out of your breaks faster, how to turn your body, how to jump up and attack the ball, things like that".
If the mechanics of being a receiver aren't second nature to him, one aspect of his game comes naturally - speed. Argos GM Jim Barker says that while at a camp in Florida this off season, Chiles ran the fastest 40-yard dash he has ever timed; a mind-numbing 4.23 seconds. Barker said there was a second hand-held timer that clocked Chiles in 4.25. When presented with those numbers, the newcomer to Canada laughed and said the fastest he remembers being timed was a slower, but still spectacular, 4.28. The speed isn't lost on the head coach.
"He's fast", said Scott Milanovich, noting that players like former Argo Jermaine Copeland have made the switch from quarterback to receiver. "Sometimes they just have a feel on how to find open windows and how to run routes. He's had a good start".
Spending time with the St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints, Chiles has picked up more of the fundamentals needed to be a pro receiver. He cited the ability to hone his technique in the NFL, something he really didn't get the chance to do at UT.
All fundamental talk aside, the skill that will set Chiles apart from other new receivers is his blazing speed. He admits his eyes lit up when he saw the size of a Canadian field for the first time.
"I was excited! With the waggle too? Coach has me at 'X' right now on the line, which I like too, but I mean with the waggle I feel like it definitely gives me an advantage on a field with size like this".
In one-on-one drills Thursday, Chiles blew by a couple of defensive backs who may have underestimated his speed. It won't take long for the word to spread that there's a true burner in camp.
Notes: For the second straight day, the Argos held camp at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Oakville. Heavy rain left the upper field at their usual facility at the University of Toronto's Erindale Campus so wet there was still standing water on the field … WR Donald Monroe was the first camp casualty, opting to leave the team and head home for good. The Argos have added FB Mike Montoya out of Wilfrid Laurier … Another former Golden Hawk, DB Shane Herbert, has been impressive so far … Friday night the Argos will receive their 2012 Grey Cup rings at a team function.