Auburn fans hope Chandler Wooten is as quick of a study on the Plains as he was in high school.
The four-year starter wasn’t out of middle school when North Cobb’s coaching staff shared their plans with Wooten’s parents Sandra and Kelvin to put the eighth grader on varsity.
“I was like I don’t know about that,” Sandra Wooten said with a laugh. “I’ll never forget at the spring practice like this when they put him in and he was no smaller than the other guys. I was like this might work. He really did compete well.”
Four years later on the same field, Chandler Wooten verbally committed to Auburn over Tennessee at halftime of his final spring game for North Cobb.
Wooten proudly shared the moment with the North Cobb community. Fans cheered from the stands while Wooten’s teammates eagerly awaited Wooten’s pronouncement alongside his immediate family — including his two younger brothers on the football team Preston and Grant — and the coaching staff.
The moment was a longtime in the making for those close to Wooten.
“Football was a passion for him from a get go, what since he was eight years old?” Sandra Wooten said. “He studies it, he sleeps it, he eats it.”
Late to the party
Wooten silently committed to Auburn in early April, but waited until the end of spring to announce the decision. The challenge of weighing 27 scholarship offers wasn’t an easy one and Wooten had moments where Auburn wasn’t the 3-star linebacker’s top school.
Tennessee made a hard push for Wooten while his childhood admiration for Florida made it hard to give up on the Gators.
“I told him to take his personal feelings out of it, this had to be more of a business decision,” Kelvin Wooten said. “Auburn and Tennessee were teams that made Chandler a priority.”
College scouts started recruiting Wooten off of his freshman film. Penn State offered Wooten a scholarship before he was finished with finals his freshman year. The physically gifted athlete finished his first season with 64 tackles and a sack for a 9-3 North Cobb team.
Auburn wasn’t one of the first teams to offer Wooten — former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp didn’t offer the linebacker until after a visit last spring — but the staff’s consistent approach during the recruiting process had an impact on the whole Wooten clan.
Despite a high degree of turnover on Auburn’s defensive coaching staff, the family can’t remember a single negative interaction with any current or former assistants.
“They talk about having a family atmosphere and it was true,” Sandra Wooten said. “They were just really genuine, you can’t drum that up.”
Wooten’s parents said Auburn’s “straight up honesty” helped their son picture himself in a Tigers’ uniform.
“Some options weren’t real options,” Kelvin Wooten said. “A team may throw out an offer, but you have to kind of decipher if it’s real or not. In the recruiting process you learn a lot about the numbers, where you fit on that team’s board. Where there is a need and how you fit in each teams’ plans.”
New Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams was at North Cobb’s spring game to watch Chandler Wooten’s announcement. Williams replaced Lance Thompson on the coaching staff and helped reel Wooten in.
“He’s been where I want to be, he’s not steering me wrong,” Wooten said. “Everything I want to do he’s done.”
All in the family
Wooten is hoping to make his final chapter at North Cobb the best one yet. The linebacker gets to close out his career playing alongside his brothers. His brother Preston is going to be a sophomore and Grant is an incoming freshman.
"We definitely have a lot of unfinished business here,” Wooten said. “I definitely want to stay focused and help bring a championship back to North Cobb."
North Cobb coach Shane Queen summed up Wooten’s importance to those title aspirations — the program hasn’t won a title since 1967 — during a brief introduction at Friday’s announcement.
“Thank god we got him for one more year,” Queen said.
Before turning the microphone over to Wooten, Queen made it clear the linebacker sets a high standard to follow in North Cobb’s locker room.
“I’ve told everybody, every coach, that’s walked into this building, if you put every intangible you want from a football player he ranks a nine or 10 in every one of those areas from character to what he does in the class room. He's the kind of young man you'd want to date your daughter and that's the ultimate compliment."