Playing semi-pro football isn’t easy. Players need to balance practices, games, film study and staying in shape around a full-time job and a personal life. On top of that, they need to find a way to stay healthy. Warrior coach Jamie Rice said that during his playing days, he wouldn’t be back to 100 percent until the Thursday following a Saturday night game. That left him just two days to prepare for the next week’s game.
Most players only stick with semi-pro ball for a season or two, but Warrior receiver Chris Stamper is part of a unique fraternity. He’s been the Warriors for six seasons, since the team held its first practice in 2010.
Stamper grew up in Mullinsville, Ohio, a rural town in the hills of eastern Lawrence County. From an early age, he knew he belonged on the gridiron.
“I’ve always loved football, football has been my whole life since I could remember,” he said.
Stamped grew up idolizing the Indianapolis Colts of the early 2000s. He was in awe of the team’s high-powered offense, especially the receiving tandem of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
“It was awesome to watch Peyton Manning throw to (Harrison) all day. I was never as fast as that, I would have liked to have been,” Stamper said.
From that point forward, Stamper knew he wanted to play receiver. As a kid, he hoped to one day play for Wheelersburg High School, earn a college scholarship and move on to the pros. But Stamper’s mother had other ideas, and sent him to Rock Hill High School.
“I liked Rock Hill, it wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it was where my Mom and Dad wanted me,” Stamper said. “Can’t fight your mom.”
In his four seasons at Rock Hill, Stamper helped lead the Redmen to two playoff appearances, including a 9-1 season in 2005. Upon graduation, Stamper went to work at the shipyards in South Shore, Kentucky, thinking that his football career was over.
But, Stamper wouldn’t be out of football for long. Through his work associates, Stamper met Warriors owner Ricky Witt and heard he was fielding a semi-pro football team. In late 2009, Stamper began attending practices and was on the field for the Warriors’ inaugural game in 2010.
“I figured, what the heck, and tried it. It stuck, and I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
Stamper isn’t the Warriors’ tallest or fastest receiver, but he’s earned a reputation throughout the Blue Collar Football League as one of the best blocking receivers in the game. Thanks in part to Stamper’s downfield blocking, Warrior backs are averaging well over 200 rushing yards per game.
“I strongly believe that some receivers these days don’t work on their blocking enough. That’s something I’ve always done, and I’ve tried to perfect it the best I can,” he said. “If they throw me the ball, I do my best to catch it. Until then, I’ll block downfield all day.”
As much as Stamper loves football, it’s the bond that he’s formed with his teammates that keep him coming out for the team year after year.
“We started a brotherhood and we stuck with it. That’s all it was,” he said. “Football kind of died off in this area it seemed like, and we’re trying to bring it back.”
After six years in minor league football, Stamper has seen it all — everything except a league championship. After reaching the championship game in 2013 and 2014, he hopes he and his Warrior teammates can finish the job in 2015.
“I just hope we can bring a championship home, finally,” he said.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter