Prior to being the head coach at Northside High School, Chad Alligood was an assistant coach at Georgia High School.
One of its stars at the time was an athlete named Chansi Stuckey.
“It was my first year at Northside as an assistant coach,” says Alligood, who was hired as head coach two years ago.
“We’ve stayed pretty close the whole time since.”
Stuckey left Northside and went on to play quarterback and receiver at Clemson before spending time in the NFL as an expanded with the Jets, Browns and Cardinals.
Stuckey’s playing career ended in 2011 and in 2019 he returned to his alma mater as a graduate assistant. In 2021, he was hired as a receivers coach at Baylor and moved to Notre Dame this offseason.
Looking back, Alligood could see the signs years ago.
“His football IQ was off the charts,” the coach says. “He understood the game so well. It frustrated you because Chansi knew all the answers before you asked him. That would be pretty funny.
“Chansi was just a gym rat. He thought he was the next Michael Jordan, though. Chansi thought he was going to be the next great basketball player, but he realized very quickly that he was special on the football pitch and changed your tone. Hardworking. You never had to question his work ethic or anything.
A future in coaching wasn’t exactly obvious, if only because Stuckey seemed destined for success no matter what path he took.
“You knew Chansi was going to be something special because of his behavior,” says Alligood. “His attitude was so outgoing. You just knew there was something about him that he was going to be special for. Not sure coaching was going to be the path for Chansi, but you just knew from his character and personality that he was destined to do something big.
Bart Boatwright | The Clemson Insider
Stuckey made his coaching debut as an GA at Clemson.
So why did Stuckey decide to become a coach so many years after quitting playing?
“To make a difference in someone’s life,” says Alligood. “Chansi’s faith is really strong for him. From the conversations we’ve had over the years, I really think he just wanted to give back to the kids, spread the gospel and influence others like his coaches influenced him.
“I think that was what it was about for him. He could have done many other things, which he did. He got involved in a lot of things after his NFL career, but just being around young people and influencing them was a big attraction for him.
And the schools where Stuckey has coached in recent years align with Stuckey’s values, according to Alligood.
“Without a doubt, without a doubt,” says the coach. “It was huge for him. I remember talking to him a few days before he went to an interview at Notre Dame. We talked about it a lot.
“I think Coach (Marcus) Freeman was a big attraction for Chansi just because of the values he has. I think that was really huge for Chansi, finding a place that reflected his values and his thoughts and what he wanted to do in this profession. I think that’s why Notre Dame suited him so well.
Alligood expects Stuckey to have “instant success” on the recruiting track.
“I just think when Chansi walks into a room with a young footballer, a mum, a dad, they’ll see how genuine he is and how passionate he is about helping their child,” he says.
“I think a big thing for Notre Dame is you get somebody from the South, you get these Southern kids who come to South Bend and I think that’s a huge hire for Coach Freeman and what ‘he’s trying to do.’
While Stuckey’s name may have come as a surprise to Irish fans given his short resume, not Alligood.
“No surprise at all,” he says. “When people get to know him, you’ll understand why he’s where he is so fast. No surprise to anyone who knows Chansi, who has been around him just because of who he is and his work ethic. He going to do things with an A-plus effort every day.When the Notre Dame fanbase and the Notre Dame athletic department really get to know Chansi, they’ll know they’ve hit a home run with this rental.
During his press conference to introduce his new staff, Freeman said that within 30 minutes of meeting Stuckey, he knew Stuckey was the right person for the job.
Alligood knows what Freeman meant.
“There are a lot of people out there who can do Xs and O’s. You need the right people. I know as a high school head coach you have to find the right people and personalities first. It’s just Chansi. I challenge anyone to call someone and find someone with a negative word to say about Coach Stuckey. That’s the impact he had. I don’t know if you can find a person to say anything negative about him.