Former Gators WR Wes Chandler named to 2015 CFB Hall of Fame class

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whenever Gator fans discuss the most dynamic playmakers in school history, those 30-and-younger instantly bring up Percy Harvin, and deservedly so.

Those Florida football fans who need an extra cup of coffee or two in the morning, well, they instantly mention Wes Chandler. If you ever saw Chandler play you know why.

Those at the National Football Foundation did and on Friday morning, the NFF announced that Chandler will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2015 class.

Chandler arrived at UF in 1974 from New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) High and over the next four seasons, despite playing receiver in a wishbone offense, was a two-time All-American. Chandler finished his UF career with 92 catches for 1,963 yards and 22 touchdowns. He added 353 yards and six touchdowns rushing his senior season.

Chandler’s 21.3-yard average per catch (minimum 75 receptions) remains a school record nearly 40 years after he played his final game at UF.

"When you are growing up in high school, you wonder what it would be like to play with such great athletes and just being part of that," Chandler said after learning of his induction. "For me, just to be able to get to Florida and participate with those individuals, individuals who had crates of talent, really helped me grow as a person and helped me grow as an athlete.

"I was just grateful to play there at Florida and with such great people and to be touched and coached by a lot of great people. I remember everyone that had an impact on my life.”

Chandler was the third overall pick of the 1978 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints and played 11 seasons in the NFL with the Saints, Chargers and 49ers. He was selected for four Pro Bowls and led the NFL in receiving in 1982.

But it was in college, wearing No. 89, where Chandler dazzled fans at Florida Field with an array of moves and athletic ability that provided head coach Doug Dickey a versatile weapon unlike perhaps any other Gator before him.

Chandler is the eighth former UF player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Dale van Sickel, Steve Spurrier, Jack Youngblood, Emmitt Smith, Wilber Marshall, Carlos Alvarez and Danny Wuerffel.

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Chandler considers his signature game at Florida a victory over Georgia in 1977 at the old Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs had won three in a row over the Gators, including a 41-27 win the previous season in which the Gators blew a big lead.

In his final opportunity to get a win against Georgia, Chandler split time at receiver and running back.

The final score: Wes Chandler 18, Georgia 17.

For the record, the actual score was 22-17, but Chandler scored all three Florida touchdowns while catching three passes for 50 yards and rushing 15 times for 57 yards in an emotional win for the Gators.

"Beating Georgia for the first time, I’ve got to say that was one of the most gratifying moments of my college career because it was the stigma," he said "We thought one year we were going to the Sugar Bowl and we lost. We had a commanding lead. The fact we had not beaten Georgia in my time there and to finally get over that hump was one of the major accomplishments.

"There are so many more memories, just playing with so many other guys who had great talent was a blessing in disguise for me. I still say that Georgia game was the impact moment in my career.”

Watching that day at the Gator Bowl was Bud Asher, Chandler’s high school coach and by then a scout for the Oakland Raiders.

After Chandler was named the game’s MVP, Asher told the Daytona Beach Morning Journal that Chandler was just getting started.

"I just wish there were some way the Raiders could get him, but with us picking so far down in the draft, there is no way a player of Wes Chandler’s ability will be available," Asher said. "But one thing for sure, Wes Chandler is going to be a superstar in the pros.”

Asher was right. He had seen enough to know, first at New Smyrna Beach High, and then those four years at UF that earned Chandler a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame on Friday.