North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
Chesson earned entry into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame by putting up impressive numbers as a wide receiver at John A. Holmes High School in Edenton, Duke and the Atlanta Falcons. But it’s a shoestring that made him famous.
Not his shoestring, mind you. It was one that belonged to Blue Devils quarterback Leo Hart, and it proved to be the distraction that caught rival North Carolina’s defense off guard. While Hart tied his shoe, Chesson took a direct snap and ran 53 yards for a touchdown — on what became known as the “Shoestring Play” — to give Duke a 17-13 upset of the Tar Heels in 1969.
“It was the easiest touchdown I ever scored,” Chesson said at his induction ceremony last year. “And it’s the only one anybody remembers.”
In reality, it was only one of many memorable performances in a standout career that began as a three-sport star at Holmes. His football teams went undefeated and won state championships in 1964-65, and his track teams finished third in the state at a time in which there was only one classification.
At Duke, he played wide receiver and punted. In three seasons from 1968-70, he caught 164 passes for 2,399 yards and 10 touchdowns while punting 153 times for a 36.3-yard average. As a senior, he set ACC records with 74 catches and 1,080 receiving yards while earning first-team all-conference honors. In all, he held 24 school records at the time of his graduation.
Chesson was drafted in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons and earned a spot on the NFL’s all-rookie team by catching 20 passes for 224 yards in 1971. He played three seasons with the Falcons before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. After retiring, he became a fixture on the Duke radio network as the color analyst to play-by-play man Bob Harris.