BLOOMING GROVE — The Grove is blooming like never before, thanks to the arrival of Ervin “Cheeseburger” Chandler who seems to be everywhere at once at the school, the gym, the field house and football field.
It’s impossible to believe Chandler has just arrived at the Grove, where he was hired in May to become Blooming Grove High School’s athletic director and head football coach.
His words and enthusiasm are everywhere you look.
He has simply wrapped his big arms around his new job and wrapped Blooming Grove in brand new.
There are Blue and white wraps everywhere around the athletic program, shiny and new, glossy photos of Lions, delivering one message after another.
Lions is written on one banner wrap outside the gym, and Pride is written on another as they look like bookends for bigger-than-life wraps depicting big, strong, proud lions all over the gym.
That’s not a symbol. That’s a way of ife for Chandler, a big man with big dreams for the kids at Blooming Grove.
“I’m excited to be here,” said Chandler as he sat in his office this week talking about the new Blooming Grove that he sees.
He comes with a mantra.
“Be a family with integrity and discipline that competes with pride,” he said. “We’re going to take pride in everything we do.”
Then he listed his words to live by.
“Family... Integrity... Discipline.. Confidence... Pride.” he said. “We’re going to play with pride and we’re going to be a very disciplined program.”
That promise of pride is everywhere you look, from the shiny banners and wraps to the way Chandler has reorganized the weight room and locker room in the field house, to the large wall-to-wall Lion banners in the gym — to the way he approaches his new job with unbridled enthusiasm and a passion for the kids and the game.
He put up a tribute to the late Mike White, a beloved football coach at Blooming Grove who passed away two years ago. Chandler put up White’s favorite saying on the walls of the locker room — ADED — “All Day, Every Day.”
“All day, every day,” said Chandler as he stood in the locker room and weight room. “The kids love saying it.”
Chandler knows Blooming Grove has had some struggles on the football field and that after snapping a losing stretch and going 5-5 last year most of the talent graduated.
But he’s ready to tackle all that and more, and knows the first thing to give his kids before they face anyone.
“You have to give them confidence,” he said. “That’s where it starts. We want them to have confidence.”
Chandler learned that when he played on Sam Harrell’s first great team at Ennis in 2000 when Harrell took the underdog Lions to the state title game. Chandler was the left tackle, blocking for an innovative offense that changed high school football in Texas by spreading the field and cutting teams up with laser passing.
“You know we were a power I team all year that year during the regular season and then coach Harrell changed it for the playoffs,” Chandler said. “And we just took off.”
Chandler was close to Harrell and offensive coordinator Wayne Walker, two of the coaches who changed his life.
“I grew up without a dad,” he said this week. “My coaches were like father figures to me. They played a big part in my life. I went to college (Sul Ross) and I wanted to be a coach. It’s been a dream of mine to be a head coach for a long time. Being here and being the coach here is exciting and it’s a blessing.”
Chandler had a chance to be a head coach earlier in his career, but turned it down because “I didn’t feel like I was ready then,” he said.
But he is one of those men who was born to coach, and when he graduated from Sul Ross he had a job before the graduation party even started.
“Coach Walker had become the head coach at LaGrange and he offered me a job. I had a job before I walked off the stage at graduation,” Chandler said.
Chandler was the offensive line coach at LaGrange for five years, and went to Seguin to become the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach when Walker took the head job there. When Walker left four years later, Chandler was asked to apply for the head coach’s job at Seguin, which basically meant they wanted to hire him as their head coach, but he turned it down because he didn’t feel he was ready.
Chandler moved on to Princeton, a large school in North Texas and was the defensive coordinator there from 2013 through 2017 and spent one year at Mabank as the DC there before the Blooming Grove job opened up.
This time Chandler felt ready, and he not only took the job but he brought Walker out of retirement and hired his former coach as his offensive coordinator.
“Just to have his experience — he has won three state titles at Ennis — it’s awesome,” Chandler said.
Chandler’s a man with roots and a family. Chandler, 37, married his high school sweetheart, Trina, and they have three children. He’s thrilled to be at Blooming Grove.
“I’m the type of guy when I get somewhere I like to sit down,” he said.
He is also the type of man who wants his fingerprints on not just the football program but the entire athletic program and Chandler’s excited about his new role as an athletic director.
He has already made an impact as he took over the personal coaching of Stephen Carroll, who had never competed in the long jump until the district meet this spring, and Chandler was instrumental in helping Carroll win the state long jump title.
Chandler has already hired a new volleyball coach, Sarah Sledge, who replaces Angela Gilliam, who left coaching at the end of the school year. He’s a busy man and all business and all-energy as he hits his new job like man on a mission.
Of course, sooner or later we have to get to his nickname — Cheeseburger — a name he picked up when he was 11 that has stayed with him.
Chandler laughs at the memory of the Genesis of his name.
“It was one of those bone-headed decisions I made as a kid,” he said. “I was in sixth grade and my teacher, Mr. Boone, gave an assignment to write a historical report. I wasn’t prepared so I wrote my report on the history of the cheeseburger. Mr Boone took me out into the hall and let me have it, and he said, ‘You want to be a wise guy and be funny? Well, we’re going to give you that name. From now on, you’re Cheeseburger.’
“It stayed with me,” Chandler said. “When I graduated from Ennis High School and when I graduated from Sul Ross they announced my name as Ervin ‘Cheeseburger’ Chandler.”
Make that Blooming Grove head coach and AD “Cheeseburger” Chandler ...