It would have been easy at one point in his high school career for Donald Chaney Jr. to decide he wanted to head somewhere with a higher profile than Belen Jesuit.
The running back has been considered one of the best athletes in Miami-Dade County since he was young and teams like the Miami Hurricanes and Syracuse Orange offered him before he even started high school.
Leaving never would have produced a day like Friday, though. The Wolverines aren’t playing in the postseason, but it was still a celebration inside the gymnasium at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School as the All-American Bowl came to Miami to honor Chaney for his selection to the annual all-star showcase. He’s the first Wolverine to ever be selected for one of the major all-American games and it made the pep rally at the school a marquee event.
“I chose Belen because I wanted to be part of a brotherhood,” Chaney said. “I heard it’s like a fraternity here, like no brother’s left behind. Connections are made that are strong your entire life.”
Some of those reasons Chaney decided to stay at Belen Jesuit for all four years of high school are the same why he has decided to stay home and play for the Hurricanes in college.
Chaney had a slew of Southeastern Conference powerhouses lining up for his services — the Georgia Bulldogs were his No. 2 choice and the South Carolina Gamecocks, for whom his father played, were also a longtime suitors — but he orally committed to Miami in February and hasn’t wavered. The senior said he never even thought about anyone other than the Hurricanes, even as Miami stumbled out of the gate and sat below .500 as recently as last month.
When asked whether he ever felt uncertain about his pledge, Chaney made sure to seek out a video camera rolling and throw up the U.
“U all the way, baby,” Chaney said. “I know it’s the same team no matter who we got. I want to be around something special. I want to be around a brotherhood. Like I just told you, nothing’s going to change.”
The Miami metropolitan area’s No. 1 player for the Class of 2020 in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Chaney backs up his talk with his actions, too. The four-star running back is one of the Hurricanes’ most vocal commitments in a group chat shared by all the players in 2020 recruiting class, and Chaney said he’s working on getting four-star safety Jaiden Francois, his cousin, back in the class.
He also has a new target this week: fellow four-star running back Jaylan Knighton. The senior from Deerfield Beach decommitted from the Florida State Seminoles on Monday after Florida State fired coach Willie Taggart. The Hurricanes have long wanted two running backs in the class and pairing Knighton with Chaney would give Miami the two top-ranked tailbacks in South Florida.
“That kid’s a good kid. He’s a good football player,” Chaney said. “I’m hoping he comes with me. We’ll be the best running back duo in college football history. That’s what I believe.”
Chaney is still on track to enroll early, and also hopes to compete in track and field for the Hurricanes — the 5-foot-11, 203-pound athlete has also won three straight state championships in the high jump.
While he still hears from other schools, Chaney doesn’t plan to take any other visits before he signs with Miami next month and arrives in Coral Gables early next year. He’ll officially visit the Hurricanes next month, then sign with Miami in the early signing period before he heads out to San Antonio to play in the All-American Bowl.
When he gets to campus, Chaney could have a chance to compete for immediate playing time, especially if running back DeeJay Dallas opts to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. Through all the ups and downs of the Hurricanes’ season, Chaney sees a team still playing as a collective and he’s excited to join the brotherhood.
“I see they’re still unified,” the elite halfback said. “Usually when you see a team like this, the record that we have right now, you see a team start breaking down game by game by game and we’re still unified, and that means a lot. That means something.”