Early in the 2014 season, South Iredell was clinging to a lead in the fourth quarter of a non-conference game against Hickory. But the Vikings’ defense had its back against the wall, facing a first-down-and-goal situation with several of its defensive linemen on the sideline suffering from leg cramps.
With no other linemen available, South Iredell’s defensive coordinator decided to send freshman Chandler Medeiros into the game.
“I remember asking our coordinator, ‘Are you sure that’s who we’ve got right now?”’ South Iredell head coach Scott Miller said. “He said, ‘Yes,’ so we gambled and threw him out there.”
A 6-foot-3, 215-pounder at the time, Medeiros made the first varsity tackle of his career a memorable one on that first-down play. He forced a fumble inside the five-yard line that South Iredell recovered, helping the Vikings secure a 34-27 win.
“I remember he was so excited and like any young kid he was jumping up and down celebrating,” Miller said. “I had to grab him and tell him to act like he’d been there before.”
The ability to make plays like that in the clutch is just one of the reasons East Carolina’s coaching staff decided to extend a scholarship offer to Medeiros on May 25. The now 6-4, 250-pounder gave the Pirates his verbal commitment June 16 after working for the staff during ECU’s summer camp and touring the campus.
Medeiros chose the Pirates over other offers from Charlotte, Elon and Old Dominion.
“I told him beforehand he would know it when he found that special place,” Miller said. “He wanted to be in North Carolina and not too far from his dad and family. So he went there for a couple of visits. He did well at the one-day camp and when he came back he said it felt like home. For him, it was just a good fit to play great football against a great competitive schedule, and it worked out for him.”
The road from that big freshman moment to becoming a major college prospect didn’t happen overnight for Medeiros.
During his first two seasons at South Iredell, Medeiros had to battle future college players Ronald Eckles Jr. (Maryville College), Holden Edwards (Western Carolina) and Cameron Miller (Catawba) for playing time on the Vikings’ defensive front. As a result, he appeared in just six games (20 tackles, one tackle for loss) as a freshman and only four as a sophomore (seven tackles, one tackle for loss, two sacks).
But despite the slow start, Miller never doubted Medeiros had special talent.
“I’ve been watching him play since middle school,” Miller said. “I even told his dad after watching him play in the middle school championship game, which he won, that if he busted his butt and did right in the classroom he could play in college.
“He was always a big kid. And he kept up his end of the bargain by working out and keeping his grades up. On the field, he’s just gotten better and better. Now his dream is coming true.”
Medeiros experienced a breakthrough last season when he finally became a starter for the Vikings. He ranked second behind Cameron Miller on the team with 5.5 quarterback sacks, had eight tackles for loss and 62 total hits for a squad that went 9-4 and reached the second round of the state 3-AA playoffs.
Used as a defensive end in high school, Scott Miller believes Medeiros will play at defensive tackle or nose tackle at East Carolina.
“He’s going to get so much bigger,” Miller said. “He’s just relentless in the weight room. Every day is full speed. He never takes a workout or a practice off. He benches about 370 pounds now. He’s just a very strong kid.”
Medeiros is the third defensive line prospect to join ECU’s recruiting class of 2018. Previously committing to the Pirates were in-state defensive end prospects Trey Love from Southeast Guilford and D’Angelo McKinnie from Southwest Onslow.
ECU may not be done with its defensive line recruiting for the 2018 class, which now numbers 18. Kyle Thomas, a 6-3, 260-pound defensive lineman from Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, VA, is scheduled to announce his college choice on August 21st. The Pirates are among the teams he is considering along with Appalachian State, Buffalo, Coastal Carolina, James Madison, Rutgers and Towson.