Having watched shortstop C.J. Chatham play for two seasons, FAU fans – and the college baseball world for that matter – knew the junior was one of the best players in FAU history.
Chatham produced another gem of a season during his junior year on the diamond. He hit .357 with 50 RBI, and nobody in the college game made plays in the hole with the ease that Chatham did.
As the season ended, the awards rolled in. He became the second consecutive FAU baseball player to earn Conference USA Player of the Year honors, but that was only the start.
Collegiate Baseball named Chatham a Louisville Slugger All-American, the first of multiple All-American teams Chatham would make. And in perhaps his biggest honor, the Boston Red Sox made Chatham the highest athlete ever drafted out of FAU, selecting him with the 10th pick of the second round, 51st overall.
Chatham wasn’t the only FAU athlete making blue waves on a national scale. On the diamond across the parking lot, softball pitcher Kylee Hanson led the nation with a 0.76 ERA on her way to being one of 10 finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year and being named a second-team All-American.
Hanson became the second FAU athlete to lead the nation in an important statistic during this academic year. Punter Dalton Schomp’s 48.0 yards per punt were the best in the country. And while Trey Hendrickson’s 13.5 sacks were only second-most in the nation, he did obliterate the FAU single-season sack record on his way to become the Owls’ career sack leader.
And let’s not forget linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who led the Owls with 94 tackles as a true freshman prompting his selection to the USA Today’s All-Freshman team.
Why it’s important: No matter the sport, recruiting is the key to building sustainable programs. FAU is still a relative newbie on the national scene (football is entering its 16th season) so it’s fair for potential recruits to wonder whether playing at what many still consider to be a commuter school will help them reach their ultimate goal.
The immediate good news for FAU is that athletes the caliber of Chatham, Hanson, Hendrickson, Al-Shaair and Schomp are already on campus and are using their talents to make a name for themselves – and FAU – on a national scale.
The good news for the future is that FAU is attracting a greater number of elite athletes than ever before, and their accomplishments should allow the Owls to keep building on successes.