Through three games in the college football season, Coastal Carolina defensive back and Fort Mill High School alumnus Chandler Kryst leads the NCAA with three interceptions in as many games.
In a phone interview with The Herald on Thursday afternoon, the redshirt senior opened up about his favorite memory playing high school football, and about the proverbial hurdles he’s had to clear in his college career — persevering through an untimely injury, multiple position switches and occasional self-doubt.
Zietlow: This may sound like a silly question considering your production this season, but how would you say this year has gone so far?
Kryst: Oh man, it’s good. Seriously. The last few years have been somewhat of a grind, you know? I’ve kind of just been keeping my head down and working. And so this year — I’m still grinding, still working — but it seems like I’m definitely getting a lot more payoff.
Zietlow: Orient me here. How would you characterize your college career up until this point?
Kryst: So, I actually walked on to Coastal Carolina. It was kind of a toss-up because I had a lot of really good looks, but for whatever reason I never got an offer, so I ended up walking on. I played corner at the very start... As I started developing my second year, I started to work more, started seeing a little bit more payoff, and I actually had the opportunity to start.
Actually, the week that I was going to start, I ended up breaking my ankle and was out for the season.
I came back my third year, was kind of “iffy” on my ankle still, still working a lot. I got moved to nickel, and from there I started playing a little bit more. (My playing time) was kind of spotted because when you play nickel, it’s usually a third-down situation ...
(As a redshirt senior), I got moved to corner from nickel since we had a new defensive coordinator; he saw more potential with me at corner, so that’s where I’m at now. I got those three picks, and here we are.
Zietlow: Back up a little bit. What was it like suffering that injury so close to earning your first start? How has that shaped you as a player and a person?
Kryst: At the time, it was kind of a heartbreaker. That was at the point when I was talking with the coaches. I was saying, ‘This is the year when I earn my scholarship. I do everything that I’ve worked for, and I put it out on the field.’ And then I got hurt and the scholarship went out the window.
Some days, I felt like I was failing more so than others. I kind of just put my head down and kept working, kept trying to believe in myself. I had support from people back home, people around me, coaches around me... I got a lot of texts from friends, people I played with at Fort Mill, my teammates and stuff. I got a lot of texts from friends back home who knew about it.
My brother (Asa) came down and helped me out, and played (Xbox) with me and whatnot, and just supported me as well.
Zietlow: Obligatory local paper questions: What is your favorite memory from high school? And how did the Tri-County area affect your childhood/adolescence?
Kryst: Well, from Fort Mill, I couldn’t narrow it down to one memory. But in a general sense, the football camps were definitely the best. There’s definitely some huge adversity, and having your brothers alongside you was definitely something to remember ...
As far as Rock Hill, the second question: Well, they call it Football City, USA, so being aware of all the great guys that come through there, it definitely kind of puts this standard to uphold. And so in the sense of football, I definitely feel that standard. I feel like I always just have to give it my best.
Zietlow: Thanks for your time, Chandler. Was there anything I missed, or anything you want to leave me with?
Kryst: Honestly, one thing I would want to leave is just that I’m a huge, firm believer in (God). And I’m a huge believer in, ‘You reap what you sow.’ And all throughout these years, it’s just been putting in that work. And eventually, the Lord will give you that payoff.
Other college players from area: Clemson, Appalachian State
Kendrick, who played at South Pointe, has started all three games for Clemson this season. He has recorded six tackles and one assist, and he’s also fielded two punt returns.
B. T. Potter
Potter, who played at South Pointe, leads Clemson in scoring with 27 points. He has made four of six field goals. His longest of the year is 51 yards. He has converted all 15 of his extra point tries.
Rudolph, who played at Northwestern High School, has played in all three contest for Clemson. He has started two games and has two tackles and three assists thus far this fall.
Williams, who played at Chester, has caught seven passes for 79 yards and one touchdown thus far this season for Appalachian State. His longest reception was for 29 yards. The Mountaineers visit Chapel Hill to take on UNC on Saturday.
NFL players from area: Rudolph to start at QB
Gilmore, who played at South Pointe High School, has played two games this year for the New England Patriots.
In his first two contests, he has four tackles and an interception — which he returned 54 yards for a touchdown.
Clowney, who played at South Pointe High School, has played in two games for the Seattle Seahawks.
He has two solo tackles, two assists, one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss in his two games.
Rudolph, who played at Northwestern High School, completed 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns in his first action of the season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He went into the game when Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down with an injury.
Rudolph will likely take over as the starting quarterback with Roethlisberger out for the rest of the season with an elbow injury.