In a recent article profiling Donnel Pumphrey, East Village Times writer, Paul Garrison, chronicled the five most memorable moments of the Rocky Long Era at SDSU, culminating in the voter approval of SDSU Mission Valley. Four of those moments happened with Christian Chapman as the quarterback and leader of the team.
He is the winningest quarterback in SDSU Division I football history with 24 victories. Ryan Lindley is second on the list with 23 wins, and Todd Santos is third with 22. Chapman passed those two legends despite starting 14 and 10 fewer games, respectively. Winning is his legacy. He lost only 11 times in 35 starts. His .686 winning percentage is the highest in school history among QBs, with more than 21 starts.
Despite amassing impressive cumulative individual totals of 39 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions, Chapman received a bevy of criticism during his years on the Mesa, mostly related to his lack of strong arm, speed, and passing yard totals. While he acknowledged receiving criticism from fans, especially on social media, and being called “just a game manager,” his response was to continue winning games. And he did plenty of that.
After SDSU’s starting quarterback, Maxwell Smith, went down with a torn ACL in the first quarter of the last regular-season game of the 2015 season, Chapman’s four-year tenure as SDSU’s starting quarterback began in the heat of the championship race. His first career start took place in the 2015 Mountain West Championship game against Air Force, in which he led the team to victory and was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player of the game.
The winning continued for Chapman as he led SDSU to a victory in the Hawaii Bowl to cap the season, and then followed up by repeating as Mountain West Champions in 2016 after defeating Josh Allen (now playing for the Buffalo Bills) and Wyoming on the road, 27-24. While Chapman did not have a stellar performance in that game, he was able to do enough to help his team win another title.
In the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl, Chapman led the Aztecs to another bowl victory, this time against Houston. That game will always be remembered in Aztecs history as the game where Donnel Pumphrey broke the all-time NCAA rushing record. Chapman was fortunate to be the quarterback who handed the ball off to him on the record-breaking run.
“We all knew what Pump’s yards were the whole game,” recalled Chapman in an exclusive interview with the East Village Times as he described the euphoria that fell upon the entire team on the run that broke the record. “The best part about that is we all cared about him in that moment being successful and just him getting that record, and we’re all excited for him..it was something special.”
While winning back-to-back conference championships and bowl games would seem to be the most important and memorable moments of Chapman’s career, a regular-season victory in his junior season stands above it all. SDSU defeated 19th ranked Stanford thanks to a final drive led by Chapman that spanned 5:21 of game clock, but over thirty minutes in real-time due to the infamous blackout and ended on a touchdown pass to David Wells with 54 seconds left to seal the come from behind win. His final line for the game was very Chapman-esque, finishing 21/29 for 187 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Aztecs fans stormed the field at the conclusion of the game, adding to the jubilation. Chapman recalled that it was the first time he had been on the field when the home fans rushed it and how he “felt the whole community come together at that point.” That memory is a special moment for Chapman since “everyone remembers that game and what we did, and that’s something that’s going to live on forever.”
That game also had another significant moment that will not be forgotten. In the middle of that Aztecs final drive, the lights at the stadium shut off, causing the game to be delayed twenty-five minutes. One of Chapman’s best friends from high school, Jordan Perez, who played linebacker for Stanford in that game, along with a few other Stanford players, argued (or half-joked?) to Chapman after the game that they believed SDSU shut off the lights on purpose to halt Stanford’s momentum and give the Aztecs more time to game plan the final drive. Chapman disagrees with his friend, arguing that “if anything the momentum was taken away from us…we were past the 50, and we were moving [the ball].”
Regardless of who had the momentum, the Aztecs came out on top and gave Chapman “bragging rights” over his friend for the rest of his life.
Remembering Aztec Nation
Chapman has fond memories of his time at SDSU and the lifetime bond and friendships he created in the locker room with teammates from different backgrounds and walks of life “that came in together and had one common goal…to win football games.”
Chapman, a San Diego native and Chargers fan was at the helm of the Aztecs when the Chargers moved to Los Angeles in 2017. “It was bittersweet seeing the Chargers leave, but it did propel us into more of the limelight in San Diego,” said Chapman.
While Chapman played a big role in the success on the field, he also played a big one off the field, helping SDSU pass the initiative for its new stadium in Mission Valley. “I remember going to city council, and being up there and talking to them and just telling how important this stadium was going to be not just only for the University, but for the whole city,” stated Chapman.
As far as the current crop of SDSU quarterbacks, Chapman is definitely keeping a close eye on that competition. Chapman believes “the most consistent quarterback wins in those situations.” He relished the quarterback competitions he was a part of at SDSU, especially the competitiveness, but affirmed, “you can’t wish for another guy’s downfall…I was just always looking at my own game and trying to sharpen my own tools.”
Chapman, like all Aztecs fans, eagerly awaits seeing who will start the first game of the season against New Mexico State on September 4th.
The Path Ahead
Since graduating from SDSU, Chapman has stayed involved in football by serving as the quarterback’s coach at Carlsbad High School, where he played quarterback and was rated as a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com and Scout.com. This opportunity still gives him a taste of football as he transitions into the next phase of his life.
Carlsbad High is coming off an undefeated 2021 spring season in which they finished ranked second in San Diego and will have sophomore “phenom” Julian Sayin take over as starting QB in the Fall and learn under Chapman. Sayin is nationally recruited, already possessing ten scholarship offers, including offers from Florida State, Texas A&M, and Penn State.
While Chapman has enjoyed his time coaching more than he initially thought he would, he has no plans to progress to higher levels. “I am content where I’m at, helping my local high school compete and just get better,” he stated before leaving the window open, “maybe in the future, who knows?”
Professionally, Chapman entered the financial advising industry upon graduation and is currently working as a financial advisor for Strong Financial Network, a firm in North County, San Diego. As Chapman confesses, he initially had other post-graduation plans, hoping to become a firefighter or police officer, and even applied to go that route.
However, a conversation with his dad spurred him in a different way. “He talked me out of it, especially with how the world is nowadays. He was just like, ‘I want you to do something that is not as crazy and violent and can put you in harm’s way,’” relayed Chapman. He landed an internship with a financial firm in Carlsbad, which allowed him to gain valuable knowledge and experience and pass licensing exams to be hired in a full-time role. The best part, according to Chapman, was that this career allowed him the time to coach and still be a part of football in some capacity, something that a police officer or firefighter schedule could not.
He is able to serve and give back to the community that raised him and afforded him the opportunities he capitalized on. As far as what the long-term future holds for him, Chapman is unsure whether that will be in financial advising, but he hopes to be financially stable with a family and be “in a happy place.”
As time has gone on from Chapman’s tenure with the Aztecs, appreciation for his game and contribution has increased. The quarterbacks who have followed him have, simply, not been his equal, and the team’s lack of conference championships has been the result. Chapman belongs in the conversation as the greatest quarterback to set foot on the Mesa.
Whether he is coaching quarterbacks, financial advising, or something completely different in the future, he will approach it the same way he approached his career playing quarterback. Just Win Baby.