Standing on the home sideline of W. Clair Harris Stadium Thursday night, May 20, during the second quarter of his high school alma mater’s spring scrimmage game against Jackson County, Chandon Sullivan leaned in and gave some claps of encouragement to the Winder-Barrow defense to come up with a key stop.
A few minutes later, it was Sullivan receiving the applause from the home crowd at the place where his football career first took off.
Sullivan, the former Winder-Barrow and Georgia State standout cornerback who is entering his fourth NFL season and third with the Green Bay Packers, was formally recognized at halftime Thursday for being inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame with family and friends in attendance. Sullivan was officially inducted into the hall of fame last fall but could not attend a recognition at a game due to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.
“It’s just crazy how time flies, but it’s a great feeling just coming back here to watch the next generation play and to see the respect people have for the work I’ve put in to make it this far,” Sullivan said. “I just want to give special thanks to (Winder-Barrow public-address announcer Jeff Hulsey and wife Jerrie Hulsey) for always supporting me since my high school days and putting on such a great event here.”
Sullivan, coming off a career-best year on the world’s biggest football stage, has come a long way, but also isn’t far removed from his days on the high school gridiron. From 2010-2013, he was a bright spot during some lean years for the Winder-Barrow program, but he had fond memories of helping the Bulldoggs snap an agonizing 31-game losing streak against Cedar Shoals in his junior season in 2012 and a breakout senior campaign that saw him total over 1,100 all-purpose yards as a running back, lock down opposing receivers on the defensive side of the ball and earn all-region honors.
Sullivan’s football career further blossomed from 2014-2017 at Georgia State, where he started 44 games, set school records in games played, interceptions and passes defended (interceptions combined with pass breakups), and earned several Sun Belt Conference and national athletic and academic accolades. He also became the program’s first Senior Bowl invitee.
Sullivan signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2018, started off on the team’s practice squad and eventually made it to the 53-man active roster, playing in five games that season. He signed with Green Bay prior to the 2019 season and his career has skyrocketed from there. He has played in all 32 of the Packers’ regular-season games and each of their postseason games the last two years, and he made 10 starts in 16 games a year ago (Playoff games aren’t officially counted in NFL season stats), playing on 71 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in the slot corner position, registering a career-high 38 tackles and notching his first-career pick-six against Detroit.
Sullivan last month signed a restricted free agent tender with Green Bay, bringing him back into the fold for a third season with the Packers. He’s slated to make a little more than $2.1 million with the one-year deal and can become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
But Sullivan said he enjoys playing with one of the sport’s true blue-blood franchises.
“It’s honestly a dream come true,” Sullivan said. “Of course, it’s freezing up there during the winter, but I love the fans and I love the organization. I feel great coming off my first whole season as a starter and I’m very confident. We’re hoping to get over the hump this year.”
Green Bay has reached the NFC Championship Game each of the last two seasons but fallen short of the Super Bowl, and Sullivan said he and his teammates will be using that bitter disappointment as motivation for 2021 — even as most of the national headlines surrounding the team this offseason have revolved around quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ relationship with the front office and whether the future hall of famer will remain in a Green Bay uniform this season.
“Of course, day to day, it’s all about doing what you can do and controlling what you can control, and I’m working on doing that so I can be at my best and help my team,” said Sullivan, who has enjoyed spending time this offseason out of isolation and closer to family and friends after the NFL eased up on its COVID restrictions. He bounces back and forth between Winder, Atlanta and Gwinnett County working out and staying in shape and said he plans to put on his inaugural kids’ football camp locally later this summer before heading back up north for training camp in preparation for the new season.
Youth mentorship and activities have remained close to Sullivan’s heart, as he enjoys reading books to children in classrooms and giving educational talks to students about preparing themselves for college and how to best position themselves for offers if they are pursuing collegiate athletic careers.
“I want to do my part in lifting the next generation up,” said Sullivan, who was the keynote speaker May 18 at the Boys. & Girls Club of Winder-Barrow County’s annual Steak & Steak fundraiser dinner at The Georgia Club in Statham. Sullivan said he wanted to convey to the youth a message that continues to serve him well as he lives out his dream and fulfills his passion for football at the game’s highest level.
“My overall message to them was to be resilient,” he said. “Nothing in life ever comes easy. But if you work hard, stay focused on whatever you’re doing and stay out of trouble, the universe tends to work itself out in your favor.”