Humble beginning has prepared Chancellor for bigger and better things
They’ve been cutting hair – and solving the world’s problems – at Andy’s Barber Shop on Colley Avenue in Norfolk for over 25 years.
Some businesses have come and gone in that block. An old restaurant is now a doctor’s office. The Old Colony House restaurant? It’s now a Chinese joint.
But Andy’s has been there for three generations, cutting hair for the kids and grown-ups in the Park Place neighborhood.
It was there in 1998 when Kumasi Johnson, the grandson of founder Andy Lovick and a third generation barber himself, suggested that a skinny, tall fifth-grader named Kameron Chancellor help out in the shop each day after school. Kumasi had been cutting hair for all the Chancellor kids, including Kam, and thought it would be a sound idea.
After all, the Chancellors needed the money and Kumasi needed the help. And besides, barbershops beat the streets. Everyone, including Kam’s mother, agreed, thus the 10-year old was hired.
Odd jobs mostly. Sweep up hair. Clean the clippers. Take out the trash. It was a good job for a 10-year-old in a pretty rough neighborhood.
“He was always quiet, but he was always very observant,” Johnson said from Andy’s. “Listen, you can learn a lot about the world in a barbershop. You hear people fussin’ and fightin’ over little things and Kameron was always very alert about that. He would ask questions about what he heard. He might have been the shy kid in the corner, but he was listening to what everyone in the shop was saying.”
Oh, he heard the language and the fights – politics, religion, race and relationships. He heard the drama and stories each and every day. But at least he was off the street, right?
For some perspective, Park Place sits north of Ghent and south of Colonial Place in Norfolk. It’s been one of that city’s roughest neighborhoods for years. Street gangs like Purple Hayze, Nine Trey Gangster Bloods, and 74 Hoover Crips have called that area home.
Chancellor estimates that, of his 20 buddies from Park Place, 15 are either dealing drugs, in jail or dead. He’s been to three funerals, including one in October.
“It can be a rough place. It is a rough place,” Chancellor said of his neighborhood. But he found refuge in a barbershop. Even more, he found perspective.
Chancellor would work there five or six days a week from the time he was 10 until he was 14. He’d come right there after school or after football or basketball practice. Then Johnson would drive him home.
“Guys can be rough, and (Kameron) heard a lot of stuff (at Andy’s),” Johnson said. “You learn a lot about the world in a place like ours. You learn a lot about women. And you learn a lot of jokes.”
With a big grin on his face today, Chancellor admits that he did hear plenty of jokes during the four years that he worked there and “Yeah, you do learn a lot about women hangin’ out in a barbershop.”
All the patrons knew him. The regulars called him ‘Shoe Shine Boy,’ coined as such by the owner’s son who, like everyone else, took an immediate liking to the kid’s magnetic smile and charm. Always on time. Always with a smile. Always polite.
When he wasn’t at school or work, Chancellor was practicing football and basketball with his teams and his best friend, Prince Parker. His dream was to play in the NFL like his boyhood idol, Sean Taylor. He was big like Taylor. He could run like Taylor. And he wanted to be a big-time safety like Taylor. Even today, Chancellor has a poster of Taylor hanging in his bedroom. And the screensaver on his computer is of Taylor.
He was a terrific athlete, but unfortunately, injuries during his high school football career as a safety and quarterback at Maury High School left Chancellor somewhat under the radar for college recruiters. ODU offered him a basketball scholarship. JMU had offered in football in the fall of 2005.
But nothing from Virginia Tech. Nothing from UVa. In fact, no other Division I-A offers came until the Hokies offered him a scholarship after Thanksgiving in 2005.
“It’s funny. I still liked JMU because they had offered first, but my high school defensive backs coach, Kevin Allen, told me I was crazy. That I had to go to Tech,” Chancellor said.
Chancellor signed with the Hokies in February of 2006. It was his only Division I-A offer.
Two years later, Chancellor is Virginia Tech’s starting free safety, patrolling the secondary like his idol Sean Taylor did.
He’s the quarterback of Tech’s defense, making the checks and making sure his teammates are aligned correctly. He understands that, as the free safety, he’s also the last line of defense and that it’s his first season playing the position.
“I might make a mistake once, but I won’t make it again,” he said. He says he looks up to guys like Aaron Rouse and Brandon Flowers, ex-Hokies now in the NFL who enjoy “knockin’ someone’s lights out.”
This story’s had a happy ending for everyone and making it even sweeter: his best buddy, Parker, joined the Hokies as a walk-on in 2006 and is now a receiver on Tech’s team.
As a football player, Chancellor is on his way to being an all-star. As a person? Well, the most humble, polite, friendly and caring person you’d ever meet is well on his way to earning his degree in human development.
“Kameron is one of those people who always listens to what you say,” Johnson said. “He genuinely cares about you and your feelings.”
That makes him a terrific person, and a great teammate at Tech.
After his football career, Chancellor envisions himself working as a high school guidance counselor, a social worker or a family counselor.
“I really enjoyed the Herma’s Readers experience last month,” he said. “I was at James Monroe Elementary (in Norfolk) and enjoyed being around those kids and in that setting and listening to them.”
“That would be a perfect job for him,” Johnson said. “Social work or serving as a counselor.”
In a way, that’s what they do at Andy’s.
“When you cut people’s hair, they open up to you. They tell you things,” Johnson said. “Maybe it’s because you’re right there with them. Next to their ears and their eyes and their mouth. You have a razor. You have clippers. They trust you. And so they say things.”
Chancellor grew up in that precise environment where you listen, understand and relate. You gain perspective and maturity.
And so when you talk with Chancellor today, he looks you in the eye and listens. He understands. And he tries to relate.
That’s not your typical 20-year-old, is it?
So in a few years, whether he’s an NFL star ‘knockin’ people’s lights out,’ or a high school counselor somewhere in Norfolk, you just know ‘Shoe Shine Boy from Park Place’ is going to be a huge success.