The long journey to instant stardom for Oregon State quarterback Aidan Chiles

I confess that when quarterback Aidan Chiles signed with Oregon State in early June of last year, I didn’t give much thought to it. I scanned his history and noted that he was a low-to-mid three star who was almost completely unknown in his native Southern California.

I recall thinking, “Aw, how cute. Oregon State has another backup.”

Why would anyone think otherwise? When Oregon State offered him a scholarship, Chiles had only started eight games in high school and he had no other Power Five offers.

At the time of his signing, he was not even ranked by and it would be more than six months before that would change.

But after the Oregon State Spring Showcase earlier this month, everyone is raving about Aidan Chiles. He is suddenly the talk of college football analysts across the nation.

While analysts fill sports media with raves about him as the future of Oregon State football and probably the PAC-Unkown, there is one question that seems to be missing:

How did a skinny, unknown, lower three-star suddenly become the shiny

talking point of college football?

Indeed, the journey has been long and it has had so many daunting barriers that only a player with great character supported by a terrific family could complete.

In pre-high school programs, Aidan Chiles demonstrated outstanding ability. But coaches shook their heads and wished he was taller, thicker, just — bigger. He could be effective at a pre-teen level but he would be dwarfed in high school unless he somehow transmuted dramatically and did it before entering high school.

But, that just didn’t happen. Chiles stood just 5’8″ as he entered his high school program. Despite a lack of physical size, he had a heart big enough for him to dare to enroll at Los Alamitos High School (Los Al), a program that once had produced University of Oregon wide receiver Keenan Howery and already had five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson.

Despite Nelson already being there, Chiles isn’t the type to back away from competition. He told one high school reporter, “I got more heart than most of these dudes out here, I’m just gonna keep it a stack. If I gotta compete with somebody, I’m gonna compete.”

It is fair to say that football coaches prefer tall quarterbacks and even at the high school level, 5’8″ is just too short unless you’re desperate. Los Al wasn’t desperate, not with Nelson on the field. And, with Nelson on the Field, Chiles found himself on the bench and realizing that he would never have a chance.

Chiles transferred to Downey High School where he was greeted with open arms.

Downey didn’t have the glitzy reputation of Los Al but he was assured by coaches that he would be given a fair opportunity to become the starter. It didn’t take long to see that he was the best of the lot.

That was the Summer of 2020, preceding his sophomore year of high school.

What he didn’t see coming was a setback greater than his experience at Los Alamitos. Just two games into the 2020 season high school football was shut down completely in compliance with governmental mandates. What was supposed to be the emergence of Aidan Chiles became the submergence of an entire season.

Those were tough days, but even tougher days were yet to come.

Chiles began his junior season (2021) in spectacular fashion as the young prospect completed 73% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also rushed for 344 yards while averaging more than 10 yards per carry.

Then in just his sixth game, disaster struck.

He was tackled to the ground amid the snap of a breaking bone in his wrist when an opponent was pushed on top of him. Certainly, it was the end of his junior season. Since it was the wrist of his throwing hand, it might also have been the end of his quarterback career.

The pain of that injury was great enough that Chiles admitted, “I didn’t know how to feel — I didn’t even go to school. I was in a cast. I can’t even shower. Bro, it was sad.”

The pain of disappointment was even greater than the pain in his wrist but as you know by now, Chiles is not a quitter. He’s also not a doubter. He was certain he would return and that Downey would win.

Instead of surrendering to barriers, the barriers surrendered to him because by the time he was in Summer workouts prior to his senior season, everything had come together and the football journey of Aidan Chiles was on the runway.

By the time his senior season started, he was 6’4″ and holding a half-dozen college offers including one from a Power Five school, Oregon State.

He was still not ranked by Rivals but he picked up where his junior season had ended. As a senior he completed over 73% of his passes while throwing 38 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also had 940 yards on the ground at a pace of 14 yards per carry.

Along the way, Washington State, Washington, and Oregon all discovered what Oregon State had figured out long before:  Aidan Chiles is a magnificent program-changing talent.

But, by the time they made their offers, Chiles was as solidly committed to the coaches at Oregon State as they were with him. In fact, when Chiles played for the CIF Southern Section championship, Oregon State football coaches were there.

Finally last December, took notice. In the space of one week, Chiles went from a low-end three star to a rating of 96 which is one breath away from being a five-star. In the process, he went from having no ranking — ever — to suddenly being in the top 20 among all quarterbacks in the nation.

All Chiles has ever needed was a chance and coaches who would believe in him. He has that at Oregon State in a program that offered him early and stayed committed despite uncertainty of the injury to his throwing hand.

After his on-field performance in April, there is every reason to think that he is the one player who validated the change in names from Spring Game to Spring Showcase. Indeed, Chiles was that showcase.

Although the Beavers are loaded with talent, it is Aidan Chiles who loads fans with hope and analysts across the country with magniloquent accolades.

I won’t argue if you think I’m wrong, but watching Chiles play makes me think I’m looking at the 2023 version of Lamar Jackson.

The question now is whether or not he should be red-shirted. All of the OSU quarterbacks have been through a lot and worked hard enough to deserve a starting role..

I would love to see Chiles get the nod but I have to also be honest about the fact that he only started 1 1/2 seasons of high school football and in four years only threw one year’s-worth of passes. He also needs more weight and better conditioning.

When I think about red shirt rules that permit a player to participate in four games without losing a season of eligibility, the idea of “rs-fr” grows on me. I mean, why rush him to a red shirt? Why not play him extensively in the first four games and then decide?

So, let’s not be Los Alamitos here. Give him four games. Give him the ball. Give him a chance. Anything less will attract the attention of those voracious opponents who now know the name, Aidan Chiles.

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