Bill Chimphalee, who graduated from Kenai Central in 2008, has made the Oregon football roster for this season as a walk-on running back.
After becoming the first player from Kenai Central to win the Gatorade Alaska Football Player of the Year in 2007, Chimphalee took his talents to Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif.
He redshirted for the 2008 season, then broke his arm and missed the 2009 season. In 2010, Chimphalee had 100 carries for 546 yards and four touchdowns. In 2011, he carried the ball 29 times for 250 yards, an average of 8.4 yards per carry. Chimphalee scored three touchdowns.
“I was going to go to Central Washington, either that or walk on at USC,” Chimphalee said late last week via cellphone. “Then I got a text from one of my junior college coaches saying Oregon was looking for running backs.”
Chimphalee said he emailed the Oregon staff highlights and other information. The staff said they liked what they saw, and invited Chimphalee to walk on as a running back.
“I just wanted to go to a big-time school,” Chimphalee said. “That’s what my dream was.”
Chimphalee was back in Kenai in June to spend time with his parents, Robert and Sasivimon Reid of Kenai. Then he went to Oregon to start summer conditioning on June 25.
So far, he said it has been tough to move up the depth chart. He did not get a carry Saturday when the No. 5 Ducks opened their season with a 57-34 victory over Arkansas State.
“I know I can play at this level,” Chimphalee said. “I just have to get the plays down and stuff like that.”
Robert Reid said his son has always had a passion for the game.
“When he played here at Kenai, he had other friends and they all hung out together and they were all serious about playing,” Reid said. “When they weren’t on the field practicing, they were running on the track, working out at the gym and having their protein drinks.
“They went after sports with a vengeance.”
Jim Beeson coached Chimphalee at Kenai Central. He said that when Chimphalee started playing receiver on varsity as a sophomore — helping the Kards to a small-schools state title — his ability in football was apparent.
“We’d turn around and throw the ball up, and he’d go catch it,” Beeson said.
The coach said Chimphalee was always quiet and shy, so he thought that would make it harder for him to make it in college football.
“He’s obviously overcome that,” Beeson said. “He’s doing quite well for himself.”
Chimphalee is still waiting to hear from the NCAA as to whether he has one or two years of eligibility left. The NCAA must decide whether to grant him a medical redshirt for the year he missed with a broken arm.
The running back’s ultimate dream would be to start seeing the ball over 20 times a game like he did at Kenai. But he said he realizes there is a lot of work ahead of him if that is to happen.
“I’ll wait and see what happens,” Chimphalee said. “A lot of things can happen in 12 weeks of football. I just have to keep working.”