Bright seeks second chance in NFL (cont.)
Bright said he was "dropping something off for a buddy" on July 26, 2007. According to a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bright delivered marijuana to an informant assisting police in an operation called Clean Corners that resulted in 125 arrests. Only the "former high school football standout" was mentioned by name in the story trumpeting the collars.
Bright was charged with five crimes, including a felony count of possession with intent to deliver, and held on $50,000 bail. It wasn't until Bright's bail was reduced to $15,000 a week later that his family could afford to post it. He pleaded guilty to the count of possession with intent to deliver, and he was sentenced to time served and two years probation.
Bright can't forget his time in the county lockup. He stayed long enough to know that he'll never do anything to merit a return visit. "It was just like TV," he said. "Jumpsuits. Bars. Small beds. It's somewhere you don't want to be. It's almost like somewhere animals should be kept."
During an interview last week, Bright insisted that any discussion of his mistakes include the following disclaimer: He didn't screw up because he came from a bad neighborhood or because of his upbringing. He screwed up because he screwed up.
Bright wanted to make clear that his mother, Denise, did a fine job raising him and his two siblings. Those siblings, older sister Tireca and older brother Eugene, each hold a college degree. Eugene Bright, who finished last season on the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster, said Denise always worked two jobs. Both positions involved assisting mentally ill young people. "She still works two jobs to this day," Eugene said. "Even with a son in the NFL."
Because Denise worked so hard, her children lived in a safe area and attended good schools. Callahan Bright knows he put his mother through plenty of anguish, but he hopes he can make her proud with the choices he makes from this point forward. That includes returning to college and finishing his degree once he establishes himself in professional football. "I definitely want to finish school," Bright said. "Football doesn't last forever. You've got to have that paper just to get a job in this economy."
Most of Bright's credits are at Shaw, where he spent two seasons on the scout team before he finally gained his eligibility in 2009. But five years after he climbed the recruiting rankings, Bright didn't play like a blue-chipper who once rag-dolled future first-rounders. He finished 2009 with 48 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and half a sack.
Bright could have played another year at Shaw, but he elected to turn pro because he wants to support Xavier and 1-year-old Makenzey, whom Bright fathered with a different woman.
When he isn't training, Bright often sits in the bunkhouse with his laptop open and a wide smile on his face. On his screen, Makenzey smiles back from her home in Pennsylvania. There isn't much cell phone service at All-Star, but the wireless Internet in the bunkhouse is fast enough for video chats. "You've got to use Skype," Bright said. "It's the best."
Mostly, Bright tries to make up for lost time. He never received elite coaching, and unlike the classmates who played at big-time schools, he never had a six-figure strength coach shadowing his workouts in a multimillion-dollar weight room. When Bright arrived at All-Star in January, he stood 6-foot-2 ½ and weighed 347. Trainer Todd Robinett marveled at Bright's natural strength when he banged out 31 bench-press reps at 225 pounds on the first day. In agility drills, Robinett saw glimpses of the quickness and raw power that so enthralled college coaches five years ago. "More than anything," Robinett said, "his gut was just getting in the way."
Robinett made it his mission to shrink that gut. As of last Friday, Bright had shed 16 pounds. All-Star owner Steve DeLuca and his staff are working to set up workouts for NFL scouts. By the time those roll around, Robinett hopes to have Bright closer to 320, and he expects Bright to be closer to 40 reps on the bench press.
While Robinett handles the measurables, Andy Cox handles the football-specific skills. Cox, a former assistant at Central Florida, the XFL and Canadian Football League, is trying to squeeze five years of coaching -- hand placement, pass-rushing moves, reading offensive linemen -- into a few months. "This kid has a shot," Cox said. "But he's never been coached."
For moral support, Bright leans on Eugene. He calls his big brother after every workout. During a phone interview Tuesday, Eugene answered a call-waiting beep. It was Callahan calling with another report. Every call makes Eugene a little prouder. He said his younger brother has matured tenfold since his days as a reckless recruit. "Callahan is a completely different kid," Eugene said. But is he ready?
Last week, DeLuca brought in Mike Hagen, a former scout for the Falcons and Chiefs, to put Bright through a mental and physical workout similar to the one he would have gotten had he been invited to this week's NFL scouting combine. First, Hagen peppered Bright with the sort of uncomfortable questions he'll get from NFL teams. "I asked him about some stuff he didn't think I'd know," Hagen said.
Then Hagen took Bright to the field, where he measured his 10- and 20-yard times as well as his 40-yard dash. Hagen said that while Bright's 40-time (5.25 seconds) won't put him on anyone's draft board, NFL general managers will notice if he repeats his 10-yard split of 1.82 seconds. In agility drills, Bright exploded from his stance, and he cut like a much smaller man. In one drill, he looked like an all-star shortstop as he effortlessly scooped up a tiny soccer ball on the run.
That natural ability is the good news, Hagen said. Now for the bad. Because Bright isn't in optimum condition, and because he doesn't have the X and O acumen of the players who spent four years in major college programs, NFL coaches are less likely to take a chance on him. "There's no sympathy for you right now," Hagen told Bright. "You're making a lot of people work really hard right now because of all the things you haven't done right. So, from this day forward, you have to do everything right."
Hagen told Bright he must be honest, humble and appreciative if he wants NFL coaches to give him a chance. Hagen believes some team will either late in the draft or with a free agent contract. NFL people simply cannot resist the siren call of a 320-pounder who can move. "These are God-given things," Hagen said. "Can they be improved upon if you're willing to work at it? Hell yes. ... But guys like him aren't just running around free."
Is Bright strong enough to toss aside his past mistakes and make a better life for himself and his children? He believes he is. Reminded of that long-ago collision with Monroe, he couldn't help but grin. Indeed, Bright took the more difficult path, but he has neither the time nor the tolerance for regrets.
"Hopefully," Bright said, "we'll meet again."
More College Football
College Football Truth & Rumors