After the news broke this week that Catalans Dragons have handed a week-long trial to an American football player called Brent Calloway, it was fair to say that not many in the rugby league community had heard of him.
It seems that Calloway’s story is one of frustrated potential; of talent just waiting for the right setting so that it can flourish.
Certainly, he was highly rated in the ranks of high school and college football in the USA. Various organisations and media outlets accorded him high ratings while he was still a high school star.
Hailed for his versatilty, Calloway played as either a linebacker on defence, or a running back on offence. Both of these roles would seem to suggest that he has some potential as a rugby league player.
Running backs handle the ball, rushing for yards through and around the line of scrimmage. Tough and fast, they possess the kind of footwork, pace and power that would make them hard to tackle in rugby league.
Linebackers are the defensive stars of the team. It is linebackers who you see bursting through and around the line of scrimmage to ‘sack’ the quarterback, and make big hits on running backs.
Again, this shows that Calloway should have some raw potential when it comes to defensive work in the 13-man code too.
His potential in gridiron is revealed by some stats. In his senior year in high school football at Russellville High School in Alabama, he ran for 1974 yards, and scored 29 touchdowns. He has also participated in the US Army All-American Bowl.
Rivals.com listed him as the number one prospect in the state of Alabama, and the 38th hottest propspect in the entire United States. They also ranked him as America’s fifth best outside linebacker, showing the kind of talent Calloway possessed as a high school player.
He could also have moved to Auburn, Southern California, Tennessee, LSU or Mississippi State, but chose to head to the famous ‘Crimson Tide’ at Alabama instead.
His time at college did not go so smoothly, however. He was ‘redshirted’ in his first year at college, meaning that he was not considered for selection. This is usually done to extend an athlete’s eligibility for another year.
In 2012, he appeared in 12 games for Alabama, but struggled to make any significant impact. Things soon started to take a significant turn for the worse when it came to his personal life.
In 2013, when it looked as though he had a real opportunity to nail a starting spot as a running back, the 20-year-old was charged with the fraudulent use of a credit card.
Team mates had stolen the card from another student, and Calloway admitted to using it, even though he knew it was stolen.
He, and three of his team-mates who were involved in the theft, were dismissed from the college’s football programme.
“You get caught up in the life. Playing football, going to class and being a college athlete,” said Calloway, according to Alabamaintel.com.
“I just got caught up in the moment and made some bad decisions I regret. I am deeply sorry for everything I did, especially when I set back and think about the choices I made.
“When I was told they (Alabama) were going to have to let me go, it took the breath out of me!”
Nevertheless, Calloway worked hard academically, as he looked to re-establish himself at Alabama and gain re-admittance to the football programme.
He also claimed to have matured after he became surrogate father to his girlfriend’s son, helping with raising the baby for the first four months of its life.
“It definitely helped mature me,” Calloway said.
“When she had the baby, I was there and fed him, bathed him and washed clothes. It opened my eyes and humbled me.”
Standing nearly 6’4″ and weighing around 16 and a half stone, Calloway certainly has the phsyique to play rugby league.
He would also seem to have the kind of raw ability which would spark the interest of league coaches.
But there are some pretty large question marks about his attitude and temperament. Rugby league can soon find weak spots too.
This is a sport where the ball is in play for 70 minutes out of 80 on average, and Calloway will clearly need to work on his aerobic fitness to make the grade.
He willl also have to learn to tackle properly, and without the padding and helmet which are part of the gridiron game. One senses that any attitude he may have may soon get ‘worked’ out of him quickly by the Catalans reserves too.
But it is great to see a club spreading its potential talent pool so widely, and the Dragons should be applauded for giving him a go.
With American high schools and colleges churning out such a wealth of talent, the vast majority of which does not get the chance to star in what is a highly specialised football code, the possibilities for rugby league are massive.
Just imagine the boost in profile the sport was to receive if Calloway makes the grade.
In the training video above, Calloway is wearing number 21.