Jackie Chambers has never been in a Tri-Cities Fever training camp.
But judging by Wednesday’s practice at the Toyota Center, it looked like the 29-year-old wide receiver had been here for years.
Chambers barked orders at his teammates while they stretched out on the arena floor. He runs pass routes as if they were the final play of a Super Bowl.
“Jackie is all business,” said Fever head coach Adam Shackleford. “He practices as hard as anybody I’ve ever had.”
As an example at Wednesday’s practice, Chambers and defensive back Donyae Coleman went all out for a passed ball, both diving for it and ramming head on into the dasherboards.
He was down for a while as practice stopped. Eventually, he got up and never missed a play. He even stayed 30 minutes after practice to work with other receivers on pass routes.
For the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Chambers, it’s all about improving.
“When I’m on the field I’m focused on getting better,” he said. “Honestly, I try to think of myself in the National Football League. I try to be on time, work hard in practice, study game film. It is a job.”
A personal trainer when he’s not playing football, Chambers doesn’t stop trying to improve when he’s not thinking about football.
At home after practice, he’ll do yoga and run on his own.
Chambers played collegiately at Lane College, a small institution in Jackson, Tenn. He was never drafted by an NFL team, but he spent time with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.
He also spent part of the 2011 season with the Fever, before playing with the Arena Football League’s Kansas City Command in 2012.
His 1,963 all-purpose yards for the Command earned him a spot on the AFL’s All-Ironman team.
Last season, he played part of the year with the Spokane Shock in the AFL before signing with the Fever for the final three games of the IFL schedule.
In those final three games, Chambers scored three touchdowns and had 195 receiving yards.
So Shackleford was pleasantly surprised when Chambers said in the offseason he wanted to stay in town.
“He told me he wanted to be here for a full season,” Shackleford said.Chambers said he wants some consistency.
“Honestly, in my professional career I haven’t played a full season yet,” Chambers admitted. “Right now, I want to come here to help win a championship. I want to do it for the players, the coaches, the community and Miss Teri (Carr).”
Chambers saw how Carr, the Fever owner, ran the franchise in his previous two stints and liked what he saw.
His hope is that by helping the Fever over the course of a full season to win an Indoor Football League title, teams from higher up the football ladder will take notice of him for next season.
To that end, Chambers is one of a group of veterans who has taken a leadership role on the team, something Shackleford hasn’t had to worry about.
“It’s nice to have six or seven guys take care of the leadership role on this team,” said Shackleford. “When things work right in the locker room, the locker room takes care of itself.”
Notes: Defensive back Quinton Richardson had a strong practice, picking off a pass and breaking up a few more in drills. ... Veteran Lionell Singleton, sitting on the bench and watching the final passing drills, offered $5 to anybody who could intercept a pass on the day’s final play. Veteran DB Rudell Crim said he would do so, then actually followed through with a pick in the end zone. ... Shackleford said defensive lineman EJ Nduka’s tryout with the NFL’s Houston Texans went well last weekend. “He said it was very positive,” said Shackleford. “But the Texans also said no one was going to get any feedback for a few weeks, so EJ decided to come here for camp.” However, Nduka wasn’t at practice Wednesday, as he was suffering from the flu. ... Shackleford was on the phone all morning, trying to get some more linemen, on both sides of the ball, into camp. ... DB Dennis Rogan didn’t practice, thanks to a leg injury. ... The team is expected to practice two times each today and Friday in the Toyota Center. First practice usually starts at 9:30 a.m., while the second is at 2:30 p.m. Shackleford said there will be a 40-play controlled scrimmage in the Toyota Center at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Then the arena staff will break down the football setup.