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Flames Senior Feature: Chris Summers
As LibertyFlames.com continues to offer coverage of Liberty's football team throughout its bye week, the web site will be providing a look at six of this year's senior players. Throughout the bye week, the web site will release a feature story written about six members of its 17-player graduating senior class.
Today's feature is about senior wide receiver Chris Summers. This story was the feature story for the Sept. 17 Flames Illustrated game day program (James Madison game).
In 2011, Summers is capping off a record-setting career in stylish fashion. The senior leads all Big South receivers in total receiving yards (774) and touchdown receptions (7) and currently ranks No. 18 nationally in receiving yards per game (77.4).
Last week against VMI, Summers became Liberty's all-time career leader with 178 career receptions. He enters his final career regular-season game against Stony Brook next weekend needing 74 yards to match Kelvin Edwards' program record of 2,546 career receiving yards.
A Standout Among the Rest
Harold Carmichael played 14 seasons in the National Football League, mostly for the Philadelphia Eagles. Long and lean, he was a sure-handed receiver who helped land the Eagles in Super Bowl XV in 1981.
Most football enthusiasts will remember Carmichael for one significant characteristic. Standing at 6-8, he was one of the tallest wide receivers ever to play in the NFL.
Liberty's All-America wide receiver Chris Summers falls a few inches shy of Carmichael's stature, but at 6-5, he surpasses the majority of current NFL wideouts.
"You can't coach 6-5, 215 pounds," said Liberty Head Coach Danny Rocco. "Chris is a returning All-American and has proven he is one of the most talented players in the country."
The Liberty coaching staff has been waiting for the breakout season Summers had in 2010. His natural presence gave them the impression he should have been dominating defenders the previous two seasons.
In 2009, as a sophomore, he recorded 46 catches for 603 yards for four touchdowns. He surpassed 100 yards in only one game and collected five or more receptions in just three games.
Then came Summers' emergence in 2010. Not only did he exceed 100 receiving yard in six contests and collect five or more catches in every game he played, Summers also broke Liberty's season receiving records with 1,081 yards (previous held by Pat Nelson had 1,075 in 1991) and 15 touchdowns (previously held by Eric Green had 10 in 1989).
"I made a big emphasis on getting better the whole summer leading up to last season," said Summers. "I knew I was going to be the number-one receiver so I did my best to be a leader, on and off the field."
He became a tireless worker in the weight room. Summers made as many voluntary workouts as he could that summer.
"When I first came here, I didn't do a lot of weightlifting, so I made it a point to get myself better and stronger," he said. "It showed a lot on the field when I went up against defenders."
His improvement also showed in the national rankings. Summers was second in the country in touchdown receptions, fifth in receptions per game (7.6), fifth in receiving yards per game (108.1), eighth in total yards receiving and eighth in scoring (9.0 ppg).
Summers also recorded these numbers in 10 games. After suffering a knee injury against Coastal Carolina, he missed the final game. Summer did collect seven receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown, before experiencing the setback against the Chanticleers.
"Chris has worked hard during the last several years to turn himself into one of the premier receivers in the country," said wide receivers and recruiting coordinator Charlie Skalaski. "At 6-5, 215 pounds with good ball skills, he presents a formidable challenge to any defense. He will do nothing but get better as he continues to work, on and off the field, to reach his potential."
A new season has begun, and once again Summers has prepared himself to lead the Flames in accomplishing their goals – winning a fifth-straight Big South title and earning the program's first-ever bid to the NCAA FCS Playoffs.
"This is a big season. We have to take it one game at a time, preparing every week both in workouts and watching film. We have to be ready for every opponent."
Summers did suffer another injury during training camp that kept him out of the lineup for almost two weeks. The senior offensive captain has been healthy enough to appear in both games so far this season, recording eight receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown.
"I have to be a role model, knowing underclassmen watch how I work in practice and how I carry myself," said Summers. "I'm not much of a big talker, so I have to let my actions show on the field."
Summers may claim to not be much of a talker, but he does make himself known. Currently sporting a red Mohawk, Summers is identified for having a dynamic fashion sense among his teammates.
"I thought I'd try something new," he said about his new hairstyle. "It's catching on. A lot of people like it."
Around campus, Summers has developed a reputation for wearing baseball caps with matching sneakers. He also is not ashamed to admit he is a "big shopper," which is something he gets from his mother, Cheryl.
"We could spend hours at the mall," he said about his mom who raised three boys with Chris being the youngest. "I'm real close to my mom. She's been a huge influence in my life. I've learned everything from her, especially with how to deal with adversity. She's a great, Godly woman. I love her so much."
Majoring in kinesiology, Summers has future interests in going to chiropractic school. However, his first priority is pursuing an NFL career.
Since his breakout performance in 2010, Summers has legitimate NFL Draft possibilities. He knows, though, there are things he needs to do to make himself more draft-promising.
"I need to work on the ‘small things'," he said. "(Coaches and scouts) want to see me blocking and dominate as a blocker. They want to see me get off the line against pressure. "
Figuratively, the ball appears to be in Summers' court. He has the physical abilities to qualify for the next level, but it will take discipline and determination. Regardless of his future expectations, he knows he has made major changes in his life since coming to Liberty.
"I've grown a lot every year since I've been at Liberty," he said. "I know when I first got here, I had a lot to learn. So many people at Liberty, including the coaches and the teachers, have helped me be the man I am today. They want me to accomplish great things. I am a better person because of coming to Liberty University."
Chris Doyle is a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics