How Duke lineman who went viral after singing opera to teammates fell in love with music

·4 min read
Steve Wiseman/The News & Observer

An imposing figure at 6-foot-7 and 329 pounds with a full beard and long golden hair down to his shoulders, Chance Lytle stands out among Duke’s offensive lineman.

That’s true on the field, where he’s battling for a starting position, and off, where he can grab a microphone and belt out Italian opera music.

The Blue Devils were treated to the latter Sunday night during a team meal when Lytle went a capella to sing a few lines, in Italian, from Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te partirò.”

After hearing other players sing not nearly as well, and knowing Lytle received a degree in music and voice performance from Colorado before transferring to Duke this year, some of the Blue Devils chanted and pounded the table to get Lytle up and signing.

When he finished, everyone leaped from their seats to cheer wildly.

“He goes up there and I have no clue what the name of the song was,” Duke linebacker Dorian Mausi said Tuesday. “But I’m like ooooh snaap! He got that on for sure.”

On Monday night, Duke posted a TikTock video of Lytle’s performance and it quickly made its way around the Internet.

Non-opera fans might recognize the song from the end of the 2008 film, “Step Brothers,” where actor Will Farrell sang a version.

Lytle, with Colorado appearances in such operas as “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” in his background, loved entertaining his team teammates and is getting accustomed to the attention.

“I’ve been trying to keep up with it,” Lytle said. “I’m not that into social media, but I’ve been trying to be. Everybody’s contacting me and telling me about what’s going on.”

A musician since he was a young boy, Lytle has a natural ear for music and comes for a musically inclined family.

“My mom kills it at karaoke all the time,” Lytle said, adding that Lanita Lytle also plays some guitar and his dad, Gregory Lytle, plays the piano.

Growing up in San Antonio, Lytle took up violin as a fourth-grader and joined an orchestra. He planned to study music in college.

A growth spurt during high school gave him opportunities to play college football. It also made it hard to play the violin because his hands grew so large. He switched to the cello for a bit.

He accepted a scholarship from Colorado and planned to study music and pursue the violin there as well.

Recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum made playing the violin difficult for a few months when he would have to audition, though. While at Colorado as a freshmen, he found playing football nicked up his fingers, which again impacted how well he could play the violin.

So he took another musical route that didn’t involve an instrument.

“Offensive linemen tend to get a lot of damage to their fingers and hands,” Lytle said. “So I figured maybe it’d be more profitable and would be safer long term for my career if I stuck with voice. I just kind of fell in love with it. I realized I didn’t really want to switch back. I still love playing violin, but I have more of a natural talent for (voice). That’s just kind of the path that unfolded before me for opera.”

The Duke teammates who didn’t know of his hidden talent left Sunday night’s team meal impressed.

“He’s great,” Duke sophomore wide receiver Shamir Hagans said. ”And it shocked me. I really wasn’t expecting that, to be honest. You know, most of the players’ singing is pretty bad. But he got up there and he killed it. He definitely killed it.”

The 24-year-old Lytle has designs on a professional football career. When that’s done, he wants to use his voice to make a career. As an operatic bass, his sound will become better as he ages and it deepens.

“The starving artists thing is very real,” Lytle said. “I actually have some very good skills on the football field that I’ll probably try and apply in different ways. I’m not exactly sure yet. But long term, yeah, the goal is to make singing my entire living.”