Thursday night marked a new beginning for Georgia State football. It was the first game of a new season, with a new head coach, in our brand new stadium. But it also marked a new beginning for one football player. It will be the start of the end of All-Sun Belt corner Chandon Sullivan’s collegiate career.
“It kind of hit me that it will be my last season of college football,” Sullivan said before the Aug. 31 opener. “But I don’t think it will really hit until the first game. It will be tough.”
With everything he’s accomplished with this program already, it makes sense why. A three-year starter, Sullivan made an impact as a true freshman. He racked up 43 tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery in his first season. Since then, he’s become Georgia State’s all-time leader in interceptions and passes, defended with career totals of 136 tackles, six of them for a loss, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and even one blocked kick. Now he’s looking forward to bringing his dominance to the Panthers’ new home.
“It’s exciting to finally have a stadium, somewhere to call our home,” he said. “Playing at the Georgia Dome was fun, but at Panther Stadium we have a real home field advantage.”
And Sullivan was eager to set the tone from day one.
The hopes of a home field
“We want to start fast. The last few seasons we dropped the ball during the first game,” said Sullivan. “We want to get this first win under our belt and keep it rolling.”
Getting that first win Thursday night against Tennessee State would have gone a long way for the team’s ultimate goal: getting back to a bowl game.
“Our program deserves another bowl game, our fans deserve it, especially if we can do it in our new home. That’s the goal.” Said Sullivan.
A bowl game is no easy task, and Sullivan knows that first hand. His freshman year, the Panthers won only one game in an abysmal season. The next year, his sophomore campaign, the Panthers rebounded. They won their final four games, including beating rival Georgia Southern for the first time in school history to clinch the program’s first ever bowl game. During his junior season, the expectations were not only to go back to a bowl game, but to win it this time around. It didn’t work out that way. The Panthers lost their first four games last season and then endured another three game losing streak that all but ended their bowl dreams.
His three years as a Panther have been a rollercoaster ride, but it made him remember a valuable childhood lesson.
“Ever since I was young, I was taught never to get too high and never get too low,” said Sullivan. “Continue to stay hungry at the bottom and continue to remain hungry at the top. Hopefully this year we’ll be able to get this program heading in the right direction.”
That’s been the focus since the last game of their three win season last year: how can they right the ship? The Panthers knew they should have been better and they started their culture change from the top, firing their old head coach and replacing him with an almost entirely new coaching staff, headlined by Georgia State’s new head coach, Shawn Elliott.
The change in a leader
With the coaching perspective taken care of, now it’s on the players, and Sullivan knows it starts with him.
“I have to be a better leader, on and off the field,” he told The Signal. “I’ve got to lead by example and be more vocal, and the rest will follow.”
Sullivan’s focus and preparation for this season have been different from past seasons, and he hopes it makes the change this year.
“Really, I’ve been working on getting back to the basics, the small things,” said Sullivan. “Watching more films, my technique. It’s really the little things that make the biggest difference in the game.”
Sullivan worked hard this offseason, and he hopes it translates into his senior season being his best one. He also hopes that his final college game won’t be the last one he plays.
“Getting drafted to the NFL is always the goal, seeing Robert Davis do it this year makes it known that it is possible,” said Sullivan. “But that’s the long-term goal? As of right now, I’m just trying to get wins this year, right the ship and leave this program on a high note.”
Regardless of what happens this year, Sullivan wants to be remembered as more than just a football player.
“I just want to be remembered as a good kid, on and off the field,” said Sullivan. “I try to excel in the classroom and the gridiron. I want to be remembered as a well-rounded student-athlete.”
And it’s safe to say he is.
He was named College Sports Information Directors Association Academic All-District in 2015 and 2016. He was named to Sun Belt Commissioner’s List 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. He’s also been on the Dean’s list every semester since Spring 2015, so being remembered as an exceptional student-athlete off the field won’t be an issue.
But for now, Sullivan’s primary focus is the field. He wants the final chapter of his Georgia State career to be the greatest.
He knows the team’s expectations: they want to go to a bowl game, and they know this year they have more than enough talent and experience to do so.
He also knows his expectations. He wants to have his best season yet. But more than anything, he intends to bow out of Georgia State football in historic fashion, as something they’ve never truly been.
“I want to go out as a winner,” said Sullivan. “I’ve never experienced a winning season here, so it’s only right that I leave the program as one.”