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Chase embraces good timing, tails next coaching job

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Former East Carolina defensive back Kyle Chase and his son, Kasyn, at the annual Meet the Pirates event in ECU's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Aug. 26, 2017.

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BY NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector

Monday, January 22, 2018

Kyle Chase can point to a few defining moments in his life that told him it was time to grow up, but none were likely more poignant than the one that happened his senior year at East Carolina.

Despite being a starting safety on the ECU football team and carrying the usual full load of classes that year, what happened had nothing to do with any of that. Yet somehow, Chase made it his top priority.

His 13-year-old nephew at home in Atlanta was in trouble, in need of guidance and a change of scenery. Living in a three-bedroom apartment with then-starting ECU quarterback James Pinkney in Greenville, Chase quickly saw to it that the third bedroom soon belonged to his oldest sister’s son.

Serving as his primary guardian through the good and the bad — including the kid stealing his car one night and getting pulled over — Chase helped steer the teen through high school first at J.H. Rose and then South Central, then into Pitt Community College, changing the course of his life. He got his degree and has since started a business and a family in Greenville.

“I was 21 going on 22. It was me, James Pinkney and this 13-year-old boy that I was supposed to be raising,” said Chase, 32, now a father of two who is still chasing his dream of being a college football coach but who this year opted to coach his 8-year-old son’s youth team. “So when we had to travel (for games), I had to find a close friend or a relative that could stay with him and watch him when we went to away games. I was able to raise that boy all four years of high school.”

When it came to punishing the kid for bad behavior, Chase said he did what he knew, usually making the nephew do exercises or run laps around the house.

Since leading that dual life, Chase has relentlessly and simultaneously pursued the goal of positively shaping the lives of other kids as a coach while also helping people with mental health issues to cope with and in some cases overcome them. While he waits for the next step in what he hopes will be a long coaching career, Chase is back working in the mental health field in Greenville.

His two passions have remained strangely intertwined since the days his nephew was living in his apartment.

Chase finished at ECU in 2007, and the extra year between football and graduation allowed him to stay around the team as an intern with the academic athletic department, overseeing community service events like team visits to hospitals. He parlayed that into becoming a mentor for ECU freshmen players and something clicked immediately.

“From that point on I realized at some point I want to come back to East Carolina and coach football,” he said.

Meanwhille, Chase also went straight into the mental health field to put his child development and family relations degree to use, working with children diagnosed with behavioral problems. That also clicked.

“I always had a passion for working with youth anyway and being a positive role model because of things that I went through and experiences I had,” he said. “Things that I was able to learn from I was able to give back to them. I was able to go into family homes and not only work with the child but work with the entire family.”

In 2009, Chase jumped at the chance to become a chaplain for the J.H. Rose football team, “going out there and praying with the team each week and before and after games, and just really watching.” Once he was around the players on a regular basis, “that coaching bug really came out of me,” he said, and by the end of the season he took over coaching the team’s defensive backs.

He went on to work at South Central for three seasons.

Then came the biggest leap yet, when in 2013 Rick Smith was named ECU’s defensive coordinator under former head coach Ruffin McNeill. Smith sought out Chase, who previously played for him. Although there was no place for him as a graduate assistant right away, Chase was able to join the Pirates as a volunteer student assistant and ultimately secured a grad assistant role for the next three seasons until McNeill was fired in late 2015.

“It’s a major, major jump because now it’s football 24/7, all the time,” Chase said. “In high school, you could really (work) from 2 to 6 o’clock and be very successful at it, and do some on the weekends and have your Friday night games and be good. College football, there is such a high demand on it, especially from August to January. You’ve got to give your life to it to be successful.”

Chase said McNeill’s family-oriented team allowed his son to be around the team facilities quite a bit. But after a successful one-year stint as the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Division II Chowan University in 2016, Chase, with a daughter on the way back in Greenville, wanted to be more of a hands-on father.

Although it left him out of coaching for now, it was great timing. Chase spent last year teaching a principles of family human services course at North Pitt High School with hopes of possibly also coaching football there. Despite making a strong bond with students in the classroom, the chance to coach the Panthers never materialized. The chance to coach his son, Kasyn, did.

“It was the greatest decision, the best blessing I have ever received,” he said. “Me being available to do it was just amazing, and I think it all worked out the way God intended it to. My son’s first year of playing tackle football, I definitely wanted to be there, and there is no way I would have been able to be the head coach at North Pitt High School and also be there with my son. It was my first year of being stress-free from college football, from high school football.”

Since there were 32 players on the team, the Titans opted to split them into two squads and have one of them — the one with his son — coached by Chase. Due in large part to Kasyn’s already vast understanding of the game, it was not long before the Titans were rolling.

“He’s just so football savvy from being around it for so long, I was able to tell him things one time and he was able to understand,” Chase said. “We were able to call plays and runs plays like high school plays — jet right 28 sweep, diamond (formation), empty (backfield) — we were able to call those things and they were able to understand it and pick it up fast.”

On the first play of the season, Chase called a quarterback keeper play and Kasyn dashed 60 yards for a touchdown.

“To see him out there doing it, it was just amazing,” said Chase, adding that it reminded him of himself as an 8-year-old standout in Bridgeport, Conn., Pop Warner ball. “It was very similar. We didn’t have the success that he had, but a lot of that had to do with him being blessed with a great coach.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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