Football Matters: Derek Chancellor

Values like hard work, persistence, optimism and the teamwork mentality of football are key aspects of the game that have really shaped me.

Over the next few months, LEAD1 and the National Football Foundation are teaming up to share stories of former players and support staff for original Football Matters ® content.

Football Matters: Derek Chancellor
Legislative Correspondent, Sen. John Thune

Hometown: McCook, Neb.
Age: 26
Education: Bachelor’s in History and Political Science, University of South Dakota; Master’s in Public Administration, University of South Dakota

Derek Chancellor’s early inner-drive propelled him to a football scholarship at the University of South Dakota in 2011, where he’d become one of the top linemen on the team. With a master’s degree that he’d earned while playing football, Chancellor quickly transitioned into a legislative correspondent on Capitol Hill after graduating with his postgraduate degree in 2017.

He enjoys the atmosphere on Capitol Hill and projects that come across his desk.

Derek Chancellor discussing Senator Thune’s PHIT Act with NFL Hall of Fame running back Herschel Walker.

“I work with health, labor, and pension policy,” Chancellor said. “That’s my portfolio. Interacting with folks from South Dakota and hearing their stories, I think that’s the best part about my job. The ability to be a public servant to South Dakota constituents.”

A multi-sport athlete in high school, Derek decided political science was for him when he attended college. He credits several early career mentors with helping him develop his skill set. The dedication and focus from being a college athlete didn’t hurt either.

“The preparation I had as a football player, from watching film to being in the weight room to reading scouting reports, really helped me as a professional as I prepare for meetings or a hearing,” Chancellor said. “Preparation makes your life a lot easier when you’re actually in the activity.”

Born and raised in McCook, Nebraska, Derek has followed a winding path marked by adversity to reach his career goals. In 2014, during his junior year, Chancellor broke his leg and the injury cut his season short.

Derek Chancellor’s early inner-drive propelled him to a football scholarship at the University of South Dakota.

“I fractured my fibula. It was a spiral fracture, a tough injury,” Chancellor said. “I had no major injuries prior in my career. That was probably the biggest bout of adversity I’d faced at the time.”

“I got through it with my teammates,” Chancellor added. “They really helped me along.”

Determined to rise above his circumstances, Derek returned the following season, started all 11 games at right tackle and earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

Chancellor interned on Capitol Hill in summer 2015 after graduating with his bachelor’s degree and finished his final season of football later that fall. Just like his undergraduate years, Derek got more work experience after finishing school, this time with the city manager in Vermillion, South Dakota, and with a postgraduate degree in hand.

“I was looking for an opportunity to come back out to Washington and work for Senator Thune on the Hill,” Chancellor said. “I was fortunate enough to be offered that opportunity.”

What does football mean to you?

Football matters to me because it’s part of me. I have played football for over half of my life. Values like hard work, persistence, optimism and the teamwork mentality are key aspects of the game that have really shaped me. In my opinion, football is the greatest team sport on the globe. I think it’s important to have football around. If you have an opportunity to participate, be a student of the game.

Who inspires you?

My family comes to mind first. First and foremost, my mother and father. I lost my father a couple years ago. He was always pushing me. He and my mom always pushed me to get involved in sports and give my best in everything I do. And then my older brother, he was a great role model to look up to growing up and still is, probably more so, to this day.

Mary Pat Bierle, a professor at University of South Dakota, really shaped my life academically and professionally. And of course Senator Thune is a great role model to look up to and a fellow former athlete as well.

I have also been fortunate to have had several great coaches over the years; my head coach at the University of South Dakota, Joe Glenn, and Brett Harvey, who was my offensive line coach in college, as well as Coach Wesley Beschorner and Collin Prosser, who recruited me, particularly come to mind.

We’d be surprised to know that…

I played against Carson Wentz in college. He was a quarterback for North Dakota State at the time, which was ranked No. 1 in the country in the FCS. We beat them on the road at the FargoDome during my senior year by a field goal in the last second of the game – a thriller I’ll take to my grave.