Chase Claypool's mentors — and current superfans — fired up to watch B.C.-born NFL player's first pro playoffs
Abbotsford-raised wide receiver finishing a standout rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers
Chel and Khul Sanghera have seen star National Football League wide receiver Chase Claypool take it to the end zone since he was a child and they're hoping for more this Sunday when he begins his first playoff season with the pros.
Claypool, who has had a standout rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, first started running patterns in Abbotsford when he was only seven years old. At that time, Chel Sanghera was the president of the local community football league and her husband, Khul Sanghera, was Claypool's head coach.
"It was just insane to watch him play at such a young age and be very good at the game," said Khul Sanghera, speaking Friday on CBC's The Early Edition.
"He had a God-given talent and every time he played on the field he was electric," he added.
Chel Sanghera remembers many young players who at that age sometimes preferred playing in the grass to playing with the pigskin. Claypool was not among them.
"Chase was just always to the end zone," she said, adding he played with intensity even as a boy.
That intensity carried through juniour leagues and high school and eventually caught the eye of Notre Dame University scouts. Drafted to the Steelers in the second round of the 2020 draft, this is his first pro season.
And what a season it's been for the 22-year-old athlete.
In only his fourth game, Claypool scored four touchdowns and his 10 touchdowns through 10 games tied for the second-highest total by a rookie over that span in league history.
"Around here, everyone knows that I believed in him since day one," said Chel Sanghera with an audible chuckle.
The Sanghera's are preparing to watch their local boy on Sunday do what they have seen him do for decades — put points on the board.
"We couldn't be more proud and we'll be cheering," said Chel Sanghera.
The 2021 NFL playoffs are scheduled to begin Jan. 9 and run through Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7.
With files from The Early Edition and The Associated Press