CBS 5 Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell hosts “Gameday” every Sunday night at 11:30pm and offers his unique sports analysis here.

HAYWARD (CBS 5) – He checked his text message in the commercial break. It was Zina, telling him that his tie was crooked. Chester straightened it and asked me how it looked. “Like a million bucks,” I said. Zina had clearly taken charge of Chester’s TV wardrobe over the years and I let him know it.

I last worked with Chester a few weeks ago on the 5th Quarter post game show. He’d been our full-time 5th Quarter host until he joined Lane Kiffin at Tennessee.

At his service today in Hayward, California, I stood alongside hundreds of people who I’m sure were much closer to Chester than me. But today we shared a common bond; the loss of a friend, husband, and father of two beautiful young girls.

I knew Chester only from working with him in TV. But today, the list of distinguished speakers told me so much more about who “Chet” was and who he came to be.

Michael Dean Perry from Clemson filled us in on Chester’s college days, painting a story of a wild man who resembled little of the man I’d come to know. Tim Brown gave us a picture into Chester’s life as a Raider. Stanford head coach David Shaw spoke emotionally about Chester’s future as a coach. Howie Long was so overcome with emotion he had to back away at times as he told a story of taking Chester into his family. The young rookie drafted to take his job. It seems Chester and Howie’s four-year old son bonded and the night would often end with Howie’s little boy falling asleep on Chester’s chest. And years later, when Howie’s son was in trouble, Chester was there to help him.

If you listened closely to all the stories you couldn’t help but come to one conclusion. When Chester found God, he found a purpose. People say zebras never change their stripes. Chester, as the speakers said, changed. Or, in the words of Pastor Napoleon Kaufman, a part of Chester needed to die. And with Gods help, Chester discovered a new way of life.

So, as I looked at Chester’s beautiful family I wondered why God would take a man who recently devoted his life to Him. I think it was Michael Dean Perry who tried to answer that. “It’s hard to figure out logically how this could happen. But it’s easier to understand on a spiritual level.”

Then I looked around the room. There was Marcus Allen over there. The entire Stanford football team stood front and center. Jim Harbaugh and Keena Turner were among a large group of former teammates and NFL alumni. Chester’s entire life was right here in this room.

And they vowed, some day, to be with him again.


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