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Breaking: Liberty DT Asa Chapman reinstated against Lehigh

Nationally-ranked Liberty's visit to Lehigh was never going to be any sort of picnic for the Mountain Hawks.

And now, it just got even more challenging.

Liberty senior NG Asa Chapman, suspended since Aug. 30 after being charged with two counts of drug possession — one felony, one misdemeanor — has been reinstated to the Flames’ football team, coach Danny Rocco announced Monday.

Chapman was originally scheduled to appear in Lynchburg General District Court for an arraignment hearing on Sept. 12, but that hearing was postponed until Dec. 7. He’ll be on the field Saturday when the Flames face Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa.
Suddenly, Lehigh's job to win on Saturday got harder.  Like, 6'5, 385 lbs harder.  (more)
Chapman, a recruit that Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia all drooled over originally, was originally a commit at West Virginia, but instead spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy in order to get his grades in order.

Once his year there was over, instead of going to the Mountaineers, he decided to take his considerable combination of athleticism and size to Liberty University.

Almost immediately, he made a huge impact on the football field for the Flames.

As a true freshman in 2008, he started in all twelve games for head coach Danny Rocco and the Flames, and in 2009 he really came into his own, getting 40 tackles, forcing one fumble, and recovering one fumble - extremely strong statistics for any nose guard, let alone one that was only a sophomore.

He followed that up with becoming an all-Big South second-team all-conference lineman in 2010, starting 10 games but still notching 41 tackles and 2 sacks.  Already, folks were enthralled by the pass-rushing ability and speed of a nose guard that can anchor the Flames' 3-4 defense, stuff the run as a wide body, and yet be a formidable weapon rushing the passer, too.

Then, this August, a mere week before the season, he was suspended indefinitely from the team - and for good reason:

Liberty football coach Danny Rocco announced Tuesday that starting nose guard Asa Chapman, a 6-foot-5, 385-pound All-American candidate, has been suspended indefinitely after Chapman was arrested last Friday night and charged with two counts of drug possession.
“I’m going to suspend him indefinitely for now, really for conduct detrimental to the team and conduct unbecoming of an LU student-athlete,” Rocco said. “I’m certainly very hopeful as we go through the due process here and as we wait on the court date that we will be in a position to strongly reconsider reinstatement. But it will not be until we have sufficient information that, in our opinion, would merit that response.”
According to court records, Chapman was pulled over and arrested by Lynchburg Police on Friday night. Chapman was released after making bail. The cocaine charge is a Class 5 felony. He practiced Monday night before Rocco was made aware of the drug charges Chapman faced. Chapman was not on the field for Tuesday afternoon’s practice.
Court records show drug charges were filed in Lynchburg General District Court on Tuesday morning against Chapman. He is charged with a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession and a felony count of possession of cocaine. His arraignment hearing is set for Sept. 12.
That wasn't all.  In addition to these new charges, it emerged that it wasn't Chapman's first run-in with the law, either.
On Oct. 5, 2010, he was pulled over by Virginia State Police and charged with not wearing a seat belt and either driving with a light out or excessive lights. Court records show he was also charged with driving on a suspended license, which is a misdemeanor. He was convicted of all three charges in November, but records are unclear as to whether he made his court appearance. They do show he never paid nearly $300 in fines and court fees.
So while "not all the facts were in" on the incident, certainly the 2010 incident seemed to point to other troubles with the law, concerning the talented nose guard.

With all the troubles surrounding this NFL-caliber talent, it seemed at the time like he might be suspended for the entire season, though it was at least in part contingent on a court date set to occur September 12th.

But then, this week, came a delay of Chapman's court date - and reinstatement by coach Rocco.

Liberty nose guard Asa Chapman, suspended since Aug. 30 after being charged with two counts of drug possession — one felony, one misdemeanor — has been reinstated to the Flames’ football team, coach Danny Rocco announced Monday. 
Chapman was originally scheduled to appear in Lynchburg General District Court for an arraignment hearing on Sept. 12, but that hearing was postponed until Dec. 7. 
He’ll be on the field Saturday when the Flames face Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa. 
“Asa has exceeded all that has been asked of him from the university since the time of his suspension,” Rocco said. “Asa has learned several valuable life lessons during this time period, ones that are going to make him a better person, student-athlete and teammate. 
“The support system that we have had in place for Asa during the last several weeks is in keeping with our university’s mission and purpose. Liberty has been in the business of ministering to its students for 40 years, and is now in a new era of Christian commitment. This support system will continue to envelop Asa in the days ahead, making sure we do all we can to help this young man make the best possible life choices.”
It's important to note that we don't know all the facts about the case.

To their credit, too, Liberty University, through their support system and ministry, reportedly have offered their support for Mr. Chapman in this tough time for him:

"Liberty University has a longstanding policy regarding the treatment of students who ‘self-report,' requesting assistance," said Mark Hine, Liberty University Vice President of Student Affairs. "Student Affairs will extend the same grace to Asa as would be extended to any student in a similar circumstance."
It's admirable that Chapman, using the words of coach Rocco, learned "valuable life lessons" during his suspension - including, it must be noted, not being available during Liberty's huge home game vs. nationally-ranked James Madison.

But the charges are pretty serious.  Cocaine possession is a felony in the state of Virginia, of course, and it could mean, tragically, up to a year in prison for Chapman if he's convicted of the charges.

It's an issue that seems to go beyond "valuable life lesson" and into rescuing this young man's life.  Whether football is a part of that rescue, that's probably a matter of debate.

But it's undeniable that in the issues regarding wins and losses for the Liberty football team, too, it's extremely fortunate timing for the Flames that the court pushed his hearing to December 7th - potentially, a week after the first two rounds of potential Liberty playoff games.

It's also very fortunate for the1-2 Flames to also get their star defensive player back against the nationally-ranked Mountain Hawks.  On the national FCS football level, Liberty would benefit greatly from a road win against a nationally-ranked opponent, perhaps keeping them in the Top 25.

It's a piece of news that will certainly be discussed a lot by others in the upcoming week - and it will unquestionably have an effect this weekend at Murray Goodman stadium.

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