Mark Chapman is used to taking orders.
The son of a U.S. Marine, Chapman grew up with a father whose duties took him – and the family – all over the country before finally settling down so that Mark could focus on school and football. And it’s paid off: Chapman comes into Thursday’s CFL draft as the top-ranked receiver after a solid career at Central Michigan and an outstanding performance at the CFL combine.
Father James was stationed in Japan when Mark was born and the Chapman family moved back to the United States when he was a young child, spending time in Michigan, Missouri and California.
“Sometimes we would be places for three years and sometimes we would be there six months,” Chapman said. “Then my dad decided to take one for the team.”
After entering the Marines at 25 years old and a 20-plus year career, ranking as high as a major, James retired in 2008 and settled the family in Port Huron, Michigan so his son could chase the football dream. James fought for the U.S. in Operation Desert Storm and the Iraq War after 9/11.
“When he deployed for Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom he was gone for nine to 12 months. Mom just was strong and made it seem like any other day, she didn’t let us worry because we were so young and we didn’t know the danger he was in. It’s a blessing because war is real, but somebody has to do it,” Chapman said.
Chapman was raised in a Marine household that was built on respect. Whenever James asked Mark to carry out a task he would reply: “yes sir.”
“They’re just tough people and I’m really proud to be their son,” Chapman said.
Before James enlisted in the Marines he was a star running back coming out of high school but valued his academics. He didn’t want to play at a university or college that would allow him to be just a football player and have his school work done for him. James walked on at Eastern Michigan and got an NFL shot with the Detroit Lions. Mother Pattie, who was born in Sarnia, Ontario, was a volleyball and basketball player. That’s where Chapman gets the athletic genes.
Chapman earned letters in football, basketball, track and weightlifting at Port Huron High School, but he knew his true passion was football, playing the other sports to stay in shape and make him better on the field. After winning Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior year in 2012, Chapman garnered offers from Toledo, Bowling Green and Central Michigan. More offers could have come, but he committed early.
“I took some visits to Central Michigan and it just felt like home, I trusted the people there, I met the players and it felt like a family environment,” Chapman said.
Brother Jarrett, who spent time with the Ticats, played defensive back for the Chippewas. Chapman redshirted, improved his receiving statistics each season and ended his Central Michigan time by securing career highs in catches (54), yards (805) and touchdowns (5).
Chapman worked out at Central Michigan’s pro day in front of a large contingent of NFL scouts and the CFL combine, impressing at both events. The New York Giants took notice and invited Chapman to their rookie mini-camp, scheduled for May 10-13. Personnel men in the three-down league believe the playmaking receiver is the most pro-ready prospect in the 2018 class.
“Chapman is the guy that will walk in your locker room, you put him on the field day one in the starting lineup and he does not look out of place at all,” one evaluator said.
“He’s a guy that shows he can step on the field right away and be productive,” another football executive added.
There are scouts that feel Chapman could have more yards in his rookie season than any other Canadian target other than Brad Sinopoli who has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. There is a consensus around the league that Chapman is a first-round prospect and should go high in the CFL draft, possibly first overall.
“I try to stay composed no matter what’s going on in my life,” Chapman said. “But to even be mentioned to go No. 1 in any type of professional sport and a draft, it’s surreal.”