Linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo has put together an excellent senior campaign. After his showing in the regular-season finale, he eclipsed 100 total tackles on the year and reeled in a career-best two interceptions, but it was a moment that came a week prior that was the most memorable of his collegiate career.
“Senior day really meant a lot. Being able to share that moment with my mom was extremely — I can’t even put it into words,” Chandler-Semedo said in an exclusive interview for The Neal Brown Show.
He added, “It was an extremely proud moment for me and an extremely proud moment for her. Neither of us knew the emotions that would come with it but it was a very emotional moment before and after the game. It really kind of fueled me. Coach Brown said earlier in the week you have to be able to deal with the emotions of senior day and I think I handled mine well. I kind of used it as fuel, as a positive light. I was able to relax before the game and get my mind right to actually be able to go out there and play the game of football. Then still having my head on right to be able to enjoy my family after and know who I was playing the game for.”
And there was plenty to celebrate that night. In his last game at Milan Puskar Stadium, Chandler-Semedo led WVU with 12 tackles. He was the only Mountaineer to total more than six in the victory over the Longhorns.
One week later in his final regular season contest, he put on a show yet again. As the leading tackler, all eight of his stops were unassisted, and he forced a fumble. His two best plays of the night kept a pair of Kansas touchdowns off the board, as he became the first Mountaineer since 2018 to have two interceptions in a game. Both came in the end zone on back-to-back KU drives.
“It felt good. Both picks came at a time where Kansas was threatening us in the red zone with points. We had a 13-point lead, but at the same time, it wasn’t as comfortable as we wanted,” he said. “I feel like both picks were pretty big for the game, not just me personally. On defense we kind of hang our hat on red-zone defense, so to get those two turnovers at crucial times in the red zone was perfect.”
So, what did Mom have to say about those two INTs?
“She was happy about it. She usually watches the games when she can’t come. She will text me throughout the game staying up with it,” Chandler-Semedo said. “After I get back to my phone I have like screen records and texts on certain plays she likes and ones she didn’t like.”
The linebacker has done a lot to impress his mother — and plenty of other fans — this season.
In eight of the 12 games, Chandler-Semedo finished as the leading tackler for WVU. He has ranked in the top three on the roster in stops in every game but one, and has made 10 or more stops in four contests.
His career-high at WVU is 13 tackles in a game. That number came last season in the Liberty Bowl, where he also snagged the first interception of his career.
Heading into the year, there were plenty of questions surrounding Chandler-Semedo and if he would be able to keep up the type of production Tony Fields, who finished with a team-high 88 tackles, had at the mike linebacker spot in 2020. The 100+ total tackles on the year, 27 more than the player in the No. 2 spot, prove what he promised on numerous occasions heading into the season — he is more than comfortable at that spot and can handle all that comes with being the anchor of the Mountaineer defense.
“I’ve made a ton of growth. I’ve expanded my football knowledge completely. This is the first time in my career I truly know the entire defense. I know exactly what the front is doing, I know exactly what the backend is doing. Really just playing the game within the game,” he said. “It’s been cool for me. It’s been fun. Yeah, I’ve made some mistakes at times but you just got to correct those by playing extra hard on the next couple of plays. Really just the learning curve — what makes Coach Lesley call certain plays? What makes Coach ShaDon Brown call certain plays? Like I said, just knowing the game within the game.”
His current 2021 stat line: 104 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, 6 quarterback hurries, 3 pass breakups. The last Mountaineer to surpass the century mark in total tackles was David Long (111) in 2018.
Now, whether or not we’ve seen the last of Chandler-Semedo in Gold and Blue is still to be determined. Regardless, one thing is for certain: he has left his mark on this West Virginia program.
“I really just want to be remembered as a player that had a lot of perseverance. I saw the highs and lows of this program but I was also growing and excelling. I came into this program as a 17-year-old boy and I am leaving as a 21-year-old man,” Chandler-Semedo said. “I’ve just grown from the experience overall. Grown as a leader, grown as a man, as a teammate. I’ve grown as a student, I’m getting my master’s degree right now and was able to graduate in three years. I feel like everything just worked out right for me.”
The full interview with Josh Chandler-Semedo will air this weekend on The Neal Brown Show. Check your local TV listings for details.