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McCallum's superiors later approved his request for a detail in San Diego. On May 10 the orders he had been hoping for came through, and the Navy announced that McCallum was "free to seek employment in his off-duty hours."
Looking back on his time at sea, McCallum is proud to have earned combat pay for spending 45 days last winter escorting oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz. "It's intense and real impressive, too, how everyone works to get the job done," he says. "You really put all your training to use."
His favorite nautical tale, however, involves crossing the equator. He pulls a T-shirt out of his knapsack that commemorates a venerable rite of passage. In a traditional shipboard hazing, he had to crawl on the deck through fetid food, suck a cherry out of the belly button of the ship's fattest sailor and have his head dunked in a toilet filled with a medley of bubbling brown sludge, of which McCallum says, "You only hoped it wasn't....
"The master chief wanted me to say, I love Bo Jackson,' but I kept saying, 'I love myself,' " McCallum recalls. "So he'd stick my head in that stuff again."
Having learned the Charger offense at minicamp in May, McCallum enters his battle for playing time on equal footing with his fellow running backs. Although he won't have to beat out Jackson or Marcus Allen, the Raider runners, he will have to outplay Gary Anderson, Lionel James and former Redskin Tim Smith for time in the Chargers' one-back set.
McCallum's main concern about time these days focuses on a stopwatch. He was never a burner—his best clocking over 40 yards is a 4.6 he ran at Annapolis—and he is not likely to have gotten speedier. His other anxiety as camp approaches wasn't allayed by his quarter-backing the California's flag football team. "The big question is, Can I take a hit?" the 6'2", 224-pound McCallum says. "I believe I can. It's just mental, and I have enough mental discipline to take it. But I'm sure the first time it happens I'll go, Why am I doing this?"
After working out at the stadium, McCallum showers, slips on his Navy uniform and drives 15 miles to the Naval Training Center, arriving at 0845. He spreads his datebook in front of him on the desk. He has an interview to conduct (1100), paperwork to complete (1400 to 1600), a meeting to attend on the problem of college dropouts among black males (1800), calls to make, and running to squeeze in at lunch. Nothing on the walls near his desk suggests he has a second career, but there is a blue wooden pencil holder in the shape of a football, which McCallum likes to pick up and play with while he talks.
One of McCallum's jobs is to recruit "culturally diverse" officer candidates for the Navy. He has a goal of finding 15 prospects a month; he must encourage five of them to take a test, and try to ensure that one of them passes and applies to the service. This gives him a loose schedule—"I don't work hours, I work for objectives"—and a forum in which to speak about the Navy. "As he gets better in football, the national attention he gets can only help us," says his commanding officer, Captain Samuel Hallmark.
Before McCallum goes out to run his half-dozen quarter-mile sprints at 1200, he interviews a sonar technician interested in an NROTC college scholarship. He grills the young petty officer about the differences between managing and leading, and about how he would describe himself. Then he asks the recruit if he has any questions.
"I have one," he says. "How do you handle this—work and football? I can't imagine it. Me and another guy were talking about it. It's unbelievable. You seem tired."