The story of Chandler Byron defied convention from the start. He was more linebacker than quarterback when new Monroe Area coach Kevin Reach discovered him in 2017. Quickly realizing this was his best athlete, Reach built the offense around him, and the rest is history.
Byron went on to become the most prolific rushing quarterback in state history. He ran for 2,795 yards last season, eighth-most all-time for a player at any position. He rushed for 5,582 yards in his career and was the 2018 Class AAA offensive player of the year. Byron scored 76 touchdowns. He passed for 43. Monroe Area went 22-3 over his final two seasons.
Now, Byron is being unconventional again - not going to college, despite having received some 15 scholarship offers from Division II and smaller Division I schools.
"He never wanted to go to college," Reach said. "He made that clear when he was a junior. He kind of knew what he wanted to do. He's just a good country boy that enjoys hunting and fishing and wants to continue working and is completely content."
Today, Byron works as he did in high school with his brothers. They have a successful landscaping and lawn-service business around Walton County. Brothers Shannon and Hunter Byron also played for Monroe Area. The youngest Byron, Mason, is a junior quarterback and free safety on the team now. Chandler is also working for the City of Lawrenceville.
"He went on a couple of college visits," said Reach, "but he said, 'You know, coach, I really don't want to do any more school. I just want to work. I love football, but I just don't love school.' He had everybody and his mother trying to talk him into it, but he's not one to look back. He knew what he wanted to do."
Reach calls Byron the best football player he's ever coached. That's covering 31 years. That includes Taylor Heinicke, who has played in the NFL.
"Taylor was the best quarterback, but as far as a football player, Byron was the best," Reach said. "Certainly the most productive."
Reach coached Byron to legendary heights in Monroe, but as Reach reflects, he realizes maybe Byron taught him a thing or two, as well.
"Simplicity, maybe that's what I need, to be more simple in life," Reach said. "Maybe he's the one who's figured it out. A perfect description for him is he was a throwback player, like the ones you'd expect to see in the '50s, how they used to be. He never cared about the glamour or trophies. He just loved playing football for Monroe and his community. Nowadays, that's hard to come by."
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