During his playing days, Walters shared a receivers room with four Hall-of-Famers and caught balls from a pair of Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner. When it comes to putting in the work, Walters says Chase is “right up there with the greats.”
“All the players I played with,” Walters says, “work ethic is the common denominator. A guy like Cris Carter would catch balls from the Jugs at different angles. He’d get up close and catch it one-handed. He came up with some pretty creative drills.”
Chase, who has been catching footballs since he left basketball in the eighth grade, says, “You have to love it.”
“You try to (eliminate) the distraction with hand-eye coordination,” Chase says. “The same thing with tennis balls. The defender’s around me keeping me off balance. That’s what the towel does, too. A lot of distraction drills because in a game you’ve got defenders fronting your face, behind you tackling you, pushing you off-balance.”
Maybe you waved for about 35 balls like you were flailing against Max Scherzer and Chase dropped one. He almost dropped another one, but he caught it with his shoulder pad at the last instant. He assured that you helped.
“Just waving the towel across the face, it makes it seem like you’re sitting behind a door,” Chase says,” and if you were to open the door…I have to be ready for the ball at the same time. “
That was his third bucket. Knollman figures Chase catches 120 balls a day after most practices. When the regular season gets going, he won’t be at the Jugs all that much, so this is the heavy season.
“At some point,” Walters says, “we’ll get back on the tennis balls (inside). There’ll be a time we’ll change it up.”
But Chase doesn’t seem ready to change up his routine with the fans. He acts a lot older than 22. Knollman was struck how one day last week Chase and Higgins went overtime on the Jugs and then went across the field to sign even though they weren’t asked.
“I was driving him back in the cart and I told him how nice that was,” Knollman says, “and he basically said it was the thing to do because it’s not always going to be like this. I thought that was kind of neat for him to say.”
As the Bengals man-child walked off the field on this day after all those catches and the sweat beading and another meeting beckoning, a knot of fans waited outside the gate. Chase signed a few for the smallest kids and pulled out a little guy do a quick Griddy. Then he was walking to the locker room again.
“Just enjoying the moment,” Chase says of his accessibility. “When I was young, I would have loved to have an opportunity like this. To see a practice. I never did that as a kid. I was just being a kid. I never did stuff like this.”
A few minutes later, after he had packed up the Jugs, Knollman sends you a text. You knew you forgot something.
“Your notebook is down in the equipment room.”
Only one guy was distracted in the drill.