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Inside The Chart: More to Chase

by Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets)

More To Chase: A fresh start has reinvigorated transfer WR Chase Lane, who’s eager to show his Week 1 performance is just the beginning

Inside The Chart | Sept. 7, 2023

By Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets)

He had his route all planned out.

Then the quarterback called an audible.

A couple weeks after entering the transfer portal in November of 2022, Texas A&M wide receiver Chase Lane had settled on a new home. He had informed the coaching staff on a Thursday night. He planned on announcing his commitment the following evening. He even had a Twitter announcement written and saved in his drafts.

Then Texas A&M quarterback Haynes King, like Lane a fellow denizen of the transfer portal, did what he had done so many times before in College Station: he called his receiver’s number.

“Friday mid-afternoon, I was taking a shower. I got out of the shower and I had two or three texts from Haynes. He was asking me, ‘Hey, Georgia Tech – they’re really interested. Are you down to meet them?’” Lane recalled.

Unbeknownst to him, Tech quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke, who had been pursuing King in the portal, casually asked him over the phone who he had been throwing with.

“One of them was Chase. I told him he was in the portal as well. He pulled his film up, looked at it right then, and he was like, ‘Oh, we can take this guy right there,’” King said.

Lane was flattered but lukewarm about the interest. Then again, what’s the harm in a little lunch? Lane postponed his Friday night announcement and decided to join King; Weinke; Tech head coach Brent Key; and new offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner for some casual American when they swung through College Station on Saturday afternoon.

Over cheeseburgers and fries at a restaurant right off the runway at Easterwood Airport, the redshirt junior started to envision a different future for himself.

“The first conversation we had, it felt like I had known them for hours. I really liked the plan that Coach Key had for the team, and what he wanted to do with the program. After we met with them, it just felt like a match made in heaven,” he said.

By Sunday, Lane had switched his commitment to Georgia Tech, his speed and change of direction evidently not limited to running routes.

“I’ve been happy with my decision ever since,” he said.

And based on his performance last weekend, Georgia Tech fans should be ecstatic.

Despite falling 39-34 to Louisville at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Lane finished with three catches for 69 yards, missing his career high by a yard. His 48-yard touchdown catch, in which he made a vapor trail run off a screen pass, capped off a 28-point second quarter for Tech, its highest-scoring period against an FBS opponent in nearly eight years.

Said Lane: “We went out before that drive. I went to Haynes and I was like, ‘I need one. I need one.’  We called that play, and everyone was able to execute their job.”

Lane and King were never technically a package deal. But they could become a formidable one in their new home on The Flats.

“He’s explosive, smart, he feels space, he’s easy to read on routes, [he’s] reliable. He’s just a good weapon,” said King, who passed for 313 yards against the Cardinals.

The 6-foot, 193-pound Lane showed glimpses of that weaponry at Texas A&M, where he arrived in 2019 from St. Pius X High School in Houston. His most productive season came in 2020, when he started nine games for the No. 4 Aggies and caught 29 passes for 409 yards and two touchdowns.

Lane could never quite recapture that form the following two seasons, combining for just 19 catches in 2021 and 2022. A back injury limited him last fall. He admitted that he felt like he walked on eggshells sometimes, bogged down by a fear of failure.

Like the rest of Georgia Tech’s transfer wideouts, a group that includes Dominick Blaylock (Georgia), Christian Leary (Alabama) and Abdul Janneh (Duquesne), he’s eager to go from flashes of production to stretches of them. He believes Faulkner’s offense, with its premium on versatile, position-less receivers, can help unlock that.

“It allows guys to get put in spaces for them to have the ball in their hands, make plays and just be out there playing loose and playing free. I think that’s Coach Faulkner’s philosophy, to get the ball into guys’ hands and just have them go make plays,” he said.

Lane graduated from Texas A&M in May with a degree in communication/broadcast media. He knew his late arrival at Tech would put him behind schedule in learning Faulkner’s playbook, which could stunt his impact for the season ahead.

Once again, his old teammate at A&M delivered an assist.

During summer workouts, Lane said, “If I ever had a brain [freeze] out there and I just blanked for a minute, Haynes would look at me and just give me the [equivalent] A&M play and it would snap back.”

“Having that cheat sheet, in a way, really helped me,” he added.

More times than not, though, learning and leadership come naturally to him. At Texas A&M, Lane co-founded and served as president of B.L.U.E.print (Black Leaders who Undertake Excellence), an organization that strives to give the school’s Black student-athletes a place “to feel safe and be their authentic selves, on and off campus.”  The organization won several awards at the Black Student-Athlete Summit in Houston in the summer of 2022. And in a fact that may make him unique among Division I football players (and would surely delight Georgia Tech president Angel Cabrera), Lane is the son of a university chancellor: his father, Austin A. Lane, holds that position at the 14,000-student Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He previously served as president of Texas Southern, one of the nation’s largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities. As Lane’s press conference appearances attest, he clearly inherited his father’s savoir faire speaking to large audiences.

VIDEO: Student-Athletes Media Availability (Sept. 6, 2023 - pre-S.C. State)

The son runs routes. The father runs universities. And no, Georgia Tech’s academics weren’t exactly a hard sell for him or his family.

“It was actually funny. On my official visit, my dad didn’t care about anything else. He didn’t care about the facilities. He didn’t really care for meeting the coaches. But the day we met the academic staff, that’s when he was the most locked in,” Lane said (in the speed dating world of the transfer portal, commitments often take place before visits). His mother, he notes, has plenty of academic prowess herself:  she’s a registered nurse in clinical education at OU Health in Oklahoma City.

Lane made a strong first impression against Louisville, but he’s preferred to keep his satisfaction in check.  He called the Yellow Jackets’ come-from-behind loss to the Cardinals devastating. Ahead of Tech’s home opener against South Carolina State at Bobby Dodd Stadium (1 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports), he and his teammates talked this week about having a “0-0 mentality” when coming out for the second half.

“I know everyone in that locker room does want to feel that feeling again. I feel like now, we know that we can play and now that we know that we can compete. So now it’s all about just finishing,” he said.

But if Chase Lane continues his playmaking for Tech? At a certain point, he may owe his quarterback a lunch.

Alexander-Tharpe Fund

The Alexander-Tharpe Fund is the fundraising arm of Georgia Tech athletics, providing scholarship, operations and facilities support for Georgia Tech’s 400-plus student-athletes. Be a part of developing Georgia Tech’s Everyday Champions and helping the Yellow Jackets compete for championships at the highest levels of college athletics by supporting the Annual Athletic Scholarship Fund, which directly provides scholarships for Georgia Tech student-athletes. To learn more about supporting the Yellow Jackets, visit atfund.org.

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