McCallum plays with a great good humor—no matter how fierce the battle. "He comes off the field after taking some terrific hits," says running-back coach Bill Haushalter, "and he's got this kind of joyous expression that says, 'Boy, that's fun.' " In addition, he has a deep affinity for levelheadedness, for not getting too excited. And because he can separate what his body does from what his mind does, he can detach himself from the testosterone-soaked passions of football more easily than most players at major schools. He can be his own sweet self.
At Navy, a midshipman doesn't incur his five-year service obligation until he commits to a third year. If McCallum had had a clearer view of his football prowess, he might have switched schools after his sophomore year. "I was tempted to leave," he says lightly. "The talk was that I was pretty good. If a good college team had come along and let it be known that I was wanted...."
None did, so McCallum decided upon a Navy career. He immediately bloomed into the best the academy has had since Roger Staubach won the Heisman in 1963. As a junior, McCallum had six consecutive 100-yard games, eight in all, including two 200-yard games. He also broke 12 school records. "He was our only dimension," says Tranquill. "Everyone keyed on him."
Didn't matter. "Against Pitt, he came to me in the first quarter," says Haushalter, "and said, 'I'm not gaining any yards. What's going on?' I said to be patient. They were giving us what we wanted. It would come. He ended up with 172 yards." That was the most a runner had taken from Pitt in 12 years.
Only then, in the wake of such accomplishment, did the gravity of his five-year commitment sink in. Now the idea of pro football having to wait until 1990 tormented him. "I looked into different ways of getting out, of hurrying it up," he says. He had one option: to drop out of the academy, serve a two-year hitch as an enlisted man and be free by 23.
McCallum spoke with Navy's two Heisman winners, Staubach and Joe Bellino (1960). Bellino delivered a ringing appeal to stay. "You will have graduated from one of the great institutions in the world," said Bellino. "You will have played for Navy, family and self. You will have the opportunity to serve your country. You can't take those things away." Staubach said simply, "You will be successful in whatever you do because you went to the academy."
McCallum knew all this. Eventually he would realize he had been foolish to consider anything else. "I was afraid to act, really," he says. "I could see I was in a good situation. Why lose it, why take a chance on losing it, when it was all talk." Because he had matured late, McCallum has never had an inflated self-image. "When I watched myself on film, I never seemed to look like a football player, not like the guys I saw on TV, the Walkers and Dickersons," he says. "I kind of underestimated myself. So I did the cautious, sensible thing."
To Navy's ecstasy. Last year, the academy put McCallum on a poster, dressed in an 18th-century naval uniform, standing before the cannons on the frigate U.S.S. Constellation in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The legend was I HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO RUN. Unfortunately, that pretty well described his season. In the second game, against Virginia, while being dragged down from behind, McCallum's foot was twisted to the side and his fibula cracked. It was repaired with a steel plate, in hopes that he would be back in time for Army.
When well-wishers arrived at his hospital bed, they found McCallum in high spirits. One visitor was Navy sports information secretary Jayne Bell. "He had this big grin," she says. "He said he knew now he'd made the right decision. He'd stuck by his first course and, hurt or not, he would have his education, he would be a naval officer. He didn't care about the Heisman. He had no complaints. There's nothing selfish about him."
"You know, I've never seen him down," says Tranquill. "He handled that injury as well as it could be handled."