Chance Lytle, left, works against Jack Shutack during University of Colorado football practice on Wednesday. "Sports and music are most important to
Chance Lytle, left, works against Jack Shutack during University of Colorado football practice on Wednesday. "Sports and music are most important to me," Lytle said. "But music always had that special place in my heart." (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)

Chance Lytle, an offensive lineman for the University of Colorado football team, knows better than anyone that the acoustics in the Buffs' locker room showers are fantastic.

As beads of sweat dripped off the 19-year-old's blonde locks after a Wednesday morning practice, Lytle fiddled with his football helmet while professing his admiration for Bach compositions.

He is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in music with a concentration in voice performance.

"Sports and music are most important to me," Lytle said. "But music always had that special place in my heart. It's always the thing I've enjoyed most."

Lytle has been making music since he was a young boy, singing songs with his family before bedtime.

Inspired by his pianist dad, he said he got it in his head when he was just a kid that he wanted to play the piano better than his father. When his fifth grade offered violin lessons, Lytle jumped at the chance.

"I fell in love," he said.

Lytle's love affair with music crescendoed as the Texas native learned to play the cello, piano and mandolin, too.

Along the way, Lytle's basketball-fanatic mom spurred him to start shooting hoops when he was in elementary school.

In seventh grade, Lytle caught the eye of his school's football coach. Though indifferent to the sport, he joined the team.


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"I didn't know the name of a single NFL team," he said. "But it turns out, I was very good at it."

Lytle was always bigger and taller than everyone in his class. When his basketball teammates started getting leaner as he "thickened," he said it was clear he was better suited for football.

Others agreed.

Lytle, who will join the Buffs' football team on the field for the first time this fall, was named the San Antonio co-offensive lineman of the year as a high school senior.

Lytle joined the Buffs in January for spring drills.

When he came to CU, Lytle planned to audition for the College of Music's orchestra, but a football-related shoulder injury rendered him unable to wield his bow with his arm in a sling.

Determined to get into the music college one way or another, Lytle knew his only chance was to sing.

"I thought I would just audition and sing to get in and then switch to orchestra later," Lytle said.

The football player, who had never learned a classic or operatic song in his life, had five months to get his pipes in shape to belt it out loud and proud.

He learned two songs — one an Italian aria — and sang his way into the College of Music.

"I ended up loving it," Lytle said.

Patrick Mason helped Lytle hone his craft as his voice professor last year.

"His musicianship skills are higher than a lot of freshmen's were," Mason said.

Mason described Lytle as a personable, considerate man with a big, bass-baritone voice.

"His singing voice is very rich, and he's got a good, deep, low voice," Mason said.

In class, when groups of students gather to perform for each other, Mason said the situation can be intimidating and make students feel vulnerable, but Lytle always comes through with considerate comments to give.

"He's very disciplined about his work," Mason said. "He's coming along great."

Lytle's teammates reap the benefits, too.

Sometimes Lytle leads the crew in song, such as a group rendition of "Lean on Me." He covets the team showers for practice space.

"They don't give me any grief about it," Lytle said. "They know that I'm a good singer, and this is what I do."

When teammate Colby Pursell heard Lytle could sing, he said he needed to hear it for himself.

"We said, 'Let's hear it,' and he let it rip, and it was actually really good," Pursell said. "I have no idea what it was. It was opera something."

Pursell was taken aback hearing that voice come out of his fellow offensive line buddy.

"You look at him, and you hear him talk," he said. "But you can't really tell a singing voice from the way someone talks. He started hitting these notes, and his voice got real deep, and it was just like, 'Oh, he's really good at this.'"

Off the field, Lytle appreciates that his musical classmates treat him like a student first and an athlete second. Back in Texas, he said people based his whole existence on the fact that he was a football player, but he hasn't found that culture in Boulder.

"I'm not just a brute who happens to be singing on the side," Lytle said. "They know that here."

Legends such as Luciano Pavarotti, who Lytle only recently learned about, inspire him. Modern artists such as Adele and Brendon Urie are vocal role models. In his free time, Lytle likes to listen to bands such as alt-J and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Balancing football and singing can get tricky. Football practice is every day until 11 a.m. all year. Lytle tries to practice singing for at least an hour a day on his own, outside of school-related demands.

"Both hold me to the same standard," he said. "I learned from a young age that if you want to develop and get better at something, you have to practice."

The football player sees music notes in his future.

Although he's not certain exactly what he wants to do, Lytle is considering sticking with performance and music education, too.

He hopes that by just being himself, he can help break stereotypes about people in the arts and athletes.

"People just don't know what athletes are like," Lytle said. "We're all students. We all have dreams. Some of those dreams might be to go play professionally, but many aren't. Maybe speak to an athlete before assuming."

Klayton Adams, Lytle's position coach, recognizes the harmony Lytle brings to the Buffs.

"He is different in a good way," Adams said. "Sometimes you worry when someone has two different passions that are that big, you worry about one of them maybe not getting as much attention, and that hasn't been an issue at all with Chance. He is really, really into football and he's really, really into music, and the best part is I think he has a good chance to be real good at both of them."

Elizabeth Hernandez: 303-473-1106, hernandeze@dailycamera.com