BYU football player Austin Chambers was a senior in high school when his teammate Andre Maloney passed away.
Chambers and Maloney were both team captains for the Shawnee Mission West football team in 2012. Chambers said the football team had an offense that ran most of its plays through Maloney. Chambers always knew there was something special about Maloney.
“Maloney was a once in a lifetime athlete,” Chambers said.
Chambers and Maloney were two consistent faces on the field for the Shawnee Mission West Vikings. As team captains, they played both offense and defense. They shared the same motivational phrase “make it big” to help them pursue their goals of making it to the National Football League someday. In 2012, their junior year, Shawnee Mission West played in the 6A State Championship. They won the state game 19-14 over Hutchinson High School.
Seventeen-year-old Maloney had verbally committed to playing football for the University of Kanas that next fall in 2014— a commitment that would allow him to stay in Kansas and give his mom the ability to be at his games. This was before the tragedy occurred.
On Thursday, Oct. 3, 2014, Maloney was taken off the field by an ambulance in a game against Leavenworth High School. Maloney had become disoriented on the sideline.
The ambulance first rushed Maloney to the Overland Park Regional Medical Center emergency room. He was soon transferred to the Research Medical Center, where the doctors discovered that Maloney had a blood clot in his brain.
After an unsuccessful attempt to remove the clot, the hospital announced the next day that Maloney had passed away.
As time went on, many teammates continued to think of the phrase “make it big” that Chambers, Maloney and other teammates had used. Something that started as a motivational phrase began to be a life motto for some.
“At first it just meant in terms of football, you know. We wanted to make it big, we wanted to play in the NFL,” Chambers said.
“My senior year, my friend Andre (Maloney) ended up passing away, and that phrase, ‘make it big,’ kind of took on a new light. I began to realize that life is a lot bigger than football. Make it big, it’s something that I try to take into all aspects of my life. I try to make it big and be the best person I can be. Whether that’s for my family, whether that’s in school, whether that’s at work,” Chambers said.
The phrase is something that has impacted Chambers greatly, to the extent that he got it tattooed on his bicep in 2017. This tattoo makes “Make it big” a constant reminder that there is a lot more to life than football.
Maloney’s high school friend and Shawnee Mission West student body president Jonathan Shipp was a big supporter of the high school football team. Shipp was often spotted wearing the team colors of gold and black, with his face painted cheering on the team on the front row of the home games.
“’Make it big’ means live your life the best way possible,” Shipp said.
Make it big wasn’t only a phrase used for the players; it was a phrase that ended up getting passed around and motivating more than just the athletes. Shipp believes Maloney had an impact on and off the field.
Starting center on the state championship team Tanner Clark had always admired the work ethic of Maloney on the football field.
“He was an electric player that always had the capability to make big plays. He made everyone compete to be their best selves. He never wanted to lose at anything.” Clark said.
According to Clark, Maloney was known off the field as a much quieter kid that didn’t like a lot of attention. Maloney never wanted to be the highlight of anything, but when it came to football, he was always the highlight.
“Make it big means that you have done everything in your power to have a big impact. It means working hard for what you want. Never getting lazy when things get hard because there is a bigger reward at the end,” Clark said.
Although Maloney passed away a few years ago, he continues to impact and shape the lives of those who knew him. Chambers credits many of his life accomplishments to the impact Maloney had on him as a friend and teammate, with the motivational phrase of make it big constantly reminding him to be the best student, husband and football player.
Chambers often has “#M.i.B” written on his tape or cleats on game day as a constant reminder to never take a playoff because he knows Maloney would never do that.