Published Thursday, February 07, 2013
By DOUG GORMAN
Heritage's Schools Cander Rich is not unlike a magician out on the football field.
With an ability to produce game-changing moments for the Hawks, Rich rewrote the school's record book that began at the Georgia Independent School back when he was an eighth grader.
Along the way, he also took care of business in the classroom.
Now, he is going to balance football with getting a degree at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country after deciding to play for Yale in the Ivy League.
Then again, challenges are nothing new for The Newnan Times-Herald "Small County Player of the Year", who finished his senior year with 3,064 all-purpose yards and 37 touchdowns en route to leading Heritage School to an 11-2 record.
Rich helped lead his team to the GISA Class AAA finals for the first time ever before falling to Deerfield-Windsor back in December in Albany.
The talented Heritage School running back verbally committed to Yale last month after also considering offers from other Ivy League schools Harvard and Princeton.
"It's been a stressful time, but to finalize my decision has been such a relief. I was worried I was going to have some apprehension, but I didn't," he said. "It's just good to be at this day. I feel like I made the right choice."
The Hawks' senior wasn't exactly a mystery heading into his final season of high school football.
Rich began turning heads from the first time he touched the football for the Hawks, breaking his brother Christopher's school rushing record by his junior year, and finishing with more than 6,000 career yards.
Heritage School football coach Kevin Prisant still remembers how excited he was when he learned Rich was going to be part of his first team.
"I have to admit, Candler was one of the reasons I took the job," he said."He was going to be going into his junior year, so I knew I had something special."
Rich, the son of Dorothy and Jimmy Rich, has some naturally football ability, but he also has a work ethic coaches don't see every day.
"He just works so hard at getting better," Prisant said. "He does things to make himself better. He is also taking nine AP classes, so he is getting it done in the classroom as well."
Rich understands playing at an Ivy league school will be a little bit different.
"They have a different set of rules when it comes to balancing football with academics," Rich said. "That's really what turned me on to the Ivy League. It's going to be difficult while I am up there, but it is going to be interesting to be able to do both of those."
Then again, Rich has never shied away from hard work.
One of things he did to get better was to attend Explosive Mechanics in Peachtree City where he worked with owner Jared Bidne.
"He has been such big influence on what has happened to me," Rich said of Bidne, a former ECHS football standout who went on to play at Memphis after arriving as a walk-on. "I have been going for three years now, and he it has really helped with my strength and conditioning."
Bidne says from the first time he first starting working with Rich he could tell he was a special athlete.
"You have to really work hard. You can't just want it and expect it to happen," he said. "He has a great work ethic and he is going to out work a lot of people. He will do whatever it takes to get better."
Once Rich gets to the college level, he is expected to play on the offensive side of the ball.
The Bulldogs run a spread offense, so Rich says he will probably be one of the slot receivers with a little running back mixed in to his new playbook.
"They compared it a little bit to what Kejon Barner does at Oregon, so I will probably play at little running back and a little wide receiver, so I am looking forward to that," Rich said.
The Yale coaching staff has also promised to take a look at Rich as a kick and punt returner.
"I am looking forward to getting the chance to return kicks and punts," he said.
Prisant knows the Candler Richs of the world won't come his way often.
"Athletes like Candler are rare," he said. "It's not like you can replace him next year or the following year. He is so special, we may never see a player like him again."