Chancellor, former offensive line star for the McCook High School football team, is a redshirt freshman in his second year in the University of South Dakota football program. The Coyotes compete in the Football Championship Subdivision, one step below the NCAA major college level of teams such as Nebraska and Kansas State.
Football is big-time on the USD campus in Vermillion, S.D., and the former Bison standout is making a name for himself. Chanceller stepped into the Coyotes' starting line-up at offensive tackle early in the 2012 season, and he stayed there the rest of the campaign.
Derek is the son of Ken and Rose Chancellor of McCook. The 2011 McCook High School graduate represented the Bison in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl all-star prep football classic that summer before taking his talents to the college level at USD.
Chancellor spent the past Christmas vacation in McCook visiting family and friends. He chatted by phone earlier this week from Sioux City, Iowa as he was returning to school, with South Dakota U. classes starting Thursday.
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman redshirted in his first college season. An injury thrust him into the starting lineup early last season, and ironically, he was already on the field for the Coyotes.
Chancellor was actually taking reps in practice at fullback early last season. The USD coaching staff put in a special goal-line package employing the huge lineman as a blocking back.
"They even had a special personnel (package) for me -- DC 31 it was called," Derek said.
The Coyotes drove the ball to the 5-yard line against Illinois State Sept. 29 in Vermillion. The USD coaches called the formation -- DC 31, and Chancellor went on the field as a fullback. On the next play, starting right tackle Marc Murtha suffered a knee injury.
"So I stayed out there on the field for the next play at right tackle, Derek said. "I was out there for the rest of the season."
Murtha is expected to return next fall, but the USD coaches have told Chancellor he will likely stay at right tackle with Murtha likely moving inside to guard.
CHANCELLOR SAID he tries to keep up with his hometown Bison as much as possible, listening to McCook football games on radio on Friday nights during the fall.
"I haven't been to a (McCook) game since I played in one. Just haven't had that opportunity," he said. "But I sure follow them every year. I'm always interested, excited to listen to them, and hear how good they're going to be next year."
Chancellor said his experience playing high school football for the Bison and head coach Jeff Gross and his staff was a great preparation for the next level.
"That was great. I don't think I could have gotten a better preparation for me from high school," he said. "The coaching staff there, the best coaching staff in the state, in my opinion. They've got the tradition to go with that, to show it. The tradition there is incredible -- the tradition never graduates. The things they do, it's amazing, with the kids."
Chancellor will return to the weight room this spring, working to bulk up as he plans to start the 2013 season in the Coyotes starting lineup. His hard work is paying dividends, as Derek said he has hit 315 pounds in the power clean -- just 55 pounds from breaking the USD program's power clean weightlifting record.
The school record is held by Tom Compton, a former Coyote offensive line standout who was drafted several years ago by the NFL Washington Redskins, according to Chancellor.
The Coyotes aren't afraid to venture into the college football big-time. USD beat Minnesota during the 2010 season. They lost to Wisconsin during the 2011 campaign, and also dropped a 38-7 decision at Northwestern last September.
Chancellor and his South Dakota squad are scheduled to open the 2013 season against the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence.
"I'm looking forward to that. They really didn't have the best season last year, and neither did we," Derek said. "We're definitely expecting to go down there and start the season off right for sure, on the right foot."
THE COYOTES finished last season with just one win in 11 games in Joe Glenn's first season as head coach. The former University of Wyoming head coach was out of coaching for several years before taking over as head of the football program at his alma mater in December, 2011.
Glenn has been successful at the FCS (formerly NCAA Division 1-AA) level during his coaching career, winning two national championships at Northern Colorado and another at Montana U. Glenn, a Lincoln, Neb. native, began his head coaching career at Doane College in Crete in the 1970s.
Chancellor thinks Glenn can return the Coyotes to a strong program.
"He definitely knows his stuff; he's definitely an experienced coach," Derek said. "Any coach that has been on the cover of magazines in his history of coaching, you know he knows his stuff. He's definitely a veteran coach, and everybody respects him up there, so that's an important thing. You can tell he knows what he's doing."
Last season was USD's first in the Missouri Valley Conference. Chancellor compares the MVC to the SEC in major college football.
"It's easily the toughest conference in I-AA Football," Chancellor said.
North Dakota State won a second consecutive FCS national championship this past season.
"It was tough, and we're really a young team, too," Derek said. "With a few exceptions, we're going to have the same team coming back next year, basically as we had this year. Sophomore quarterback, some juniors across the O-line. We're a young team, and we're building on that."
SOUTH DAKOTA lost five games by seven or fewer points, including four losses by a field goal each.
"We played some really close games," Chancellor said. "We played Youngstown State (on the road Nov. 3) and lost 13-10. They beat Pittsburgh the first game of the season. Pittsburgh took Notre Dame to three overtimes. That just shows you how close the talent level is and how close we are to really creating something special. We're right on the verge -- we've just got to get some years in us and get some experience under our belts."
Chancellor said winter conditioning will start immediately when classes resume after the holiday break.
"Then spring football in late March, when we strap on the pad again," Derek said. "It's all going to go fast, every day, starting with winter conditioning -- waking up and 6:30 every morning and getting those workouts in, and school starting up again. It's a grind, but it's all worth it for sure."
The South Dakota-South Dakota State football rivalry was renewed starting last season after a few years off. SDSU earned bragging rights with a 31-8 victory in the season finale at Brookings, S.D. Nov. 17. Chancellor will see a familiar face on the opposite sideline when the two teams square off next fall in Vermillion.
Former Cambridge standout Mike Shoff spent this past fall as a redshirt on the SDSU squad. Shoff is expected to start on the offensive line for the Jackrabbits next season.
Chancellor and Shoff are good friends. Derek said the two used to compete against each other in youth wrestling. Shoff was a three-time state wrestling champ during his high school career.
"I think I beat him more times than I lost to him," Derek said of his kids wrestling matches with Shoff. "I always prided myself on that because he was a great wrestler.
"I'm definitely look forward to the (USD-SDSU) match-ups in the future. That was a great rivalry that was renewed last year."
CHANCELLOR has a double major in history and political science at USD. He has a busy spring ahead with 18 hours of classes this semester, with the possibility of law school in his future following graduation in the coming years.
Derek said he plans to stay in Vermillion this summer in preparation for the 2013 USD college football season.
"I stayed up there last summer, worked out with the team," he said. "I'll probably will do that again next summer. That's important, getting that team chemistry going."