North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame sports columnist Caulton Tudor said of former Duke star Wes Chesson: “Wes Chesson revolutionized the Atlantic Coast Conference. Few players did more to change offensive tactics in ACC football than Duke receiver Wes Chesson.”
A native of Edenton, Wes starred in football, basketball, track and baseball at John A. Holmes High School. He was an All-East honoree in football, basketball and track in both his junior and senior years. Two of his Holmes High School football teams, coached by Hall of Famers Jerry McGee and Marion Kirby, went undefeated and earned state championships in 1964 and 1965.
And in 1966, when all track teams were in only one classification, Wes’s Holmes track team won the Eastern Championship and finished third in the state. He went on to play in the East-West All-Star Football Game (as, coincidentally, did his son and two of his brothers). In 1980, Wes’s high school football jersey was retired.
Wes arrived on the Duke campus equipped with football skills and knowledge that allowed him to play anywhere on the field. His sophomore season, he started at running back and played quarterback before settling in at wide receiver. In three seasons for the Duke Blue Devils (1968-70), he teamed up with Hall of Fame quarterback Leo Hart to catch 164 passes for 2,399 yards and 10 touchdowns.
His best year was his final one. As a senior in 1970, Wes established what at the time were Atlantic Coast Conference single-season records for both pass receptions (74) and receiving yards (1,080) on his way to earning first-team All-ACC and All-America honors. The 74 catches remarkably stood as a Duke single-season record for 42 years. All told, Wes finished his collegiate career holding 24 school records. Most memorable was the “Shoestring Play,” a 53-yard touchdown run on a trick play in Duke’s 17-13 triumph over rival North Carolina in 1969.
Following his senior season, Wes played in the East-West Shrine Bowl, the Senior Bowl and the Coaches All-American Game. Although not drafted until the seventh round of the 1971 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons, Wes was called “the surprise of training camp” and started at wide receiver for the Falcons his entire first season and was voted to the league’s all-rookie team. After starting for three seasons for the Falcons, he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he completed his NFL career.
In 1982, Wes joined hall of famer Bob Harris on the Duke Radio Network as the analyst for Blue Devil football games. He worked alongside the legendary Harris for 36 years before both retired following the 2016 season.
In 2013, Wes was inducted into the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame, and that same year, he was chosen as the Duke legend for the ACC Football Championship game that was played in Charlotte.
Wes lives in Raleigh with his wife, Janet; they have two children and five grandchildren. He is president of The Chesson Company, a life insurance brokerage company.
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