"I got to be more of a real midshipman when I got hurt," says McCallum. "I had more time. My grades went up."
Occasionally, after a study session, a classmate would say it was a shame he couldn't redshirt a year, as he could at other Division I colleges. "I didn't want to hear that," says McCallum. "I wanted to play that year, against Army and in a bowl game. But later, as the doctors told me that would be dangerous, I began to think about it." He studied the NCAA rules and, with Tranquill's blessing, went to see the academy's athletic director, J.O. Coppedge.
McCallum told Coppedge his plan: He would request an extension at the academy covering the summer and fall semesters. He would graduate in December 1985 with two majors, applied science and physical science. Sure he would have an extra football season, but he was also "enhancing his educational basis for future service."
Coppedge told McCallum that he liked the idea, but it had to be presented tactfully up the chain of command. It was. When it reached academy superintendent Rear Admiral Charles R. Larson, he studied the circumstances and granted McCallum the extension.
The liaison between the football program and Larson's office was Captain Jim Maslowski, who's now the executive officer of the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. "It's in the best interests of both the academy and McCallum," says Maslowski. "Others have been extended at the academy because they had some academic deficiency but their leadership ability was so great that it warranted their being carried on. So Napoleon's case isn't a perfect exception to the rule. His extension was granted without knowledge that he would be physically able to play football." Perhaps, but with McCallum not being academically deficient—he could have graduated in June—was there any reason other than football to grant him an extension?
The academy's action did not sit well with everyone, starting with McCallum's mother. "She was looking forward to all those hats going up in the air last spring," says McCallum. Jon Masson, a sports columnist for the Colorado Springs Sun, ripped Navy, writing, "The only way an Air Force cadet would be kept for an extra semester would be for academic reasons.... I find it nauseating when a service academy lowers itself to the level of the other football factories."
In addition, Armed Forces Journal International editor Benjamin F. Schemmer wrote: "A dart to Navy Secretary John Francis Lehman, Jr. and Rear Admiral Charles R. Larson for forgetting (or subverting) the mission of the Naval Academy. Its mission is simple.... 'To prepare midshipmen morally, mentally and physically to be professional officers in the Naval service.' Lehman and Larson apparently think the academy's mission is to train professional athletes, set intercollegiate athletic records, or win Heisman trophies." Schemmer is a West Point graduate.
Lehman didn't have a hand in the McCallum decision, but he defended it with vigor. "I should have hoped for a more benevolent attitude," he wrote Schemmer, "inasmuch as West Point has just won—with a very fine performance—its normal allotment of one game in every eight."
This minor flap will be harmful only if it obscures the thoughtful, modulated nature of McCallum. "I guess that's one of my problems," he says. "I tend to see things from a couple of angles." Yet McCallum can be a forceful advocate, as when he gently but doggedly explains to a computer professor all the wonderful points he has made in an exam answer that just has one little thing wrong. He can be a second-guessing athlete, as when he gets yelled at for not hitting a hole in practice when nothing was there. "Hey, when it's plugged, I want to go wide, or back around," he says. "You hear all this Heisman talk, you want to get more yards."
Regardless of how the academy's mission is drawn, it surely will bask in a successful McCallum season. Says Coppedge, "This is an extraordinary man in an extraordinary circumstance. I think the Navy has an obligation to take care of its people." Captain Kirk couldn't have put it any better.