Dave Chaytors is not your typical American college football player in that:
- He's already graduated.- He's already been drafted.
- He's already turned down a pro contract.
- He's not American.
Otherwise, Chaytors, who starts at left tackle for the University of Utah, is just like the rest of the Utes. He puts his pants on one leg at a time. When the coaches say "wind sprints" he asks "how many?" He's confident this can be one of the best Utah seasons in a good, long time and the Utes can end the season in a bowl game.
Which is probably the biggest reason why the 6-foot-2, 253-pound Chaytors is back on campus this fall. "We came close to going to a bowl last year," he says of the 1991 team that went 7-5 but missed a 10-win, bowl-bound season by three losses of a touchdown or less. "We didn't lose many people off that team," he says. "If we have confidence and believe in each other, we can do it this year."
Chaytors was raised in Calgary, Alberta, which makes him, by birthright, a Canadian and a hockey player, which is precisely what he was before he emigrated to Salt Lake City back in 1988 after the Utes discovered him playing semi-pro football in Calgary and offered him a scholarship.
Utah redshirted Chaytors in 1988 to give him a year to adjust to culture shock and fundamentals. In the seasons since he has turned into one of the Utes' best all-around defenders. Head coach Ron McBride, who inherited Chaytors when he took the Utah job in 1990, remembers the big Canadian was one of the players "who gave me hope - you could see he had toughness and explosiveness. He could jump, he could move horizontaly, he had quickness; and he's got a typical defensive lineman's personality; he's tough, he's mean, he doesn't talk a lot, and he's in a bad mood a lot of the time."
McBride couldn't have been happier, and, by the end of his junior season last year, neither could Chaytors. Not long after the season, he was the 19th player chosen in the Canadian Football League draft - by the Ottawa Roughriders.
Chaytors got the news in his Salt Lake City apartment and his first thought was, "Yeah. I'm outta here. I'm going to play pro ball. I'm going to be rich."
The Roughriders offered a $60,000 contract - $5,000 for signing and $55,000 for the season.
Maybe $60,000 isn't big money by Rocket Ismail standards, but for Chaytors it was buy-an-island money. Going to school the past four years in Salt Lake City had had its rewards, but they hadn't been financial. Because he was on scholarship, NCAA rules didn't allow Chaytors to work during the school year, and because he was a Canadian without a work permit, he couldn't work during the summers.
"He'd been so poor for so long - that Ottawa contract really tempted him," remembers Dale Chaytors, Dave's father. "When he first came to the States to school he used to come home in the summer, but it was a lot cooler in Calgary than in Salt Lake and he found it hard to return and get used to the heat, so it was better for his football if he stayed. His goal was always to become a professional football player."
But despite his visions of prosperity in Ontario, the longer Chaytors thought about Ottawa's offer, the more he considered not taking it.
There were drawbacks. One, he couldn't negotiate the offer. Either he took the $60,000 or left it. If he asked for more (or less) he would already be a pro in the eyes of the NCAA and ineligible to play college ball again. Two, he wouldn't be eligible for the NFL draft until the following summer. And Three, the Utes had a strong team coming back. If he and Utah improved their stature, he could be in more demand by the pros.
Chaytors talked with his parents, with McBride, and with himself, and decided he and his 1970 Ford pickup truck could make it one more year in Salt Lake City.
He spent the summer finishing up his degree - in Exercise Sports Science. He graduated in August. This winter, after football season is wrapped up, he plans to enroll in a masters program in Sports Management. In the meantime, he's taking the NCAA-requisite 12 hours this fall in courses that make his sister, Monique, a Ute freshman, drool with envy. That would make any freshman drool with envy. "Personal finance, stuff like that," says Chaytors, grinning.
He's glad he's back with the Utes. He's had no second thoughts. "Staying here added up," he says. "Hopefully I can improve as a football player and come out injury free. Then, who knows?" At the best, he could be in demand by two countries, a double draftee. And he could have a bowl ring on his right hand. There are worse reasons for staying in school.