40 times, three-cone drills and bench press reps get the spotlight at the NFL Scouting Combine but for a lot of players the non-televised portions of the draft process are the most important.
In the case of Antonio Callaway, interviews with teams were more important than the 4.41 40-yard dash he ran in Indianapolis. Callaway has first round talent. Here’s a clip of Callaway separating from a consensus first round corner in Minkah Fitzpatrick for a touchdown in the SEC Championship game.
— Billys Clips (@billys_clips) April 3, 2018
However, rather than scouts and draft analysts drooling over his physical ability and talking about his top-end speed, footwork or technique, they’re talking about red flags Callaway raised during his three years in Gainesville.
It started after his freshman season when he was accused of and faced sexual assault allegations that led to a university Title IX hearing. Callaway was found “not responsible” during that hearing, which was presided over by a University of Florida booster. Not to mention that part of Callaway’s defense in that case was that he was too high to have committed the sexual assault on the night in question.
After his sophomore season Callaway was cited for possession of marijuana in May. He was a passenger in a car with an associate that has a lengthy rap sheet. Callaway pled no contest to the charge and accepted a fine.
A few months later Callaway’s name again popped up, this time accused of credit card fraud. The investigation led to Callaway’s indefinite suspension that took his junior season away. Callaway eventually agreed to a pre-trial diversion with the State Attorney’s office, which sources told Gator Country include mandatory drug screenings, to avoid the charges.
On the field Callaway was the lone bright spot on offenses that couldn’t finish inside the top 100 in the country. He hauled in 89 passes for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns. 12 of his 89 catches went for at least 30 yards and he was a weapon on special teams as well, returning one kick and two punts for touchdowns. He’s the only player in University of Florida history with an offensive touchdown in five ways (passing, rushing, receiving, punt return and kick return).
His 4.41 speed isn’t enough to out run his past, so he had to answer to it.
It made for repetitive meetings with teams but there was nothing for Callaway to do than face the music and answer the questions.
“I’m a great person. I’m not this bad person that the media portrays. I mean, I can’t stress it enough. I just gotta … actions. Let my actions speak for me,” Callaway said. “The things that happened in my past. So, they think I’m just this wild person. I ain’t no wild person.”
That sounds good but Callaway has been portrayed in the light that he’s shined on himself for the last three years. He can’t point a finger at anyone unless he’s looking in a mirror.
There was a big change for him this year while he was away from the football team at Florida. He had a baby girl, Aulani, who will be just shy of three months old when the draft starts.
Callaway contends that fatherhood has softened and matured him. That his daughter has helped right his moral compass and has him putting others, namely Aulani, ahead of himself.
“I’ve grown a lot, actually,” he said. “I’ve got a little beautiful girl to look after, so I ain’t got no choice but to be a man.”
Callaway said it himself, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. His past is his past. He can’t put those decisions or repercussions on anyone other than himself but he’s trying to sell NFL teams on a changed person. That the litany of issues that plagued his time in Gainesville are his past and not who he is.
A spotless record off the field may have led him to walking across the stage at the draft on Thursday night, but that’s not his reality now. He’s keeping his head up and just waiting for the one team that will take a shot on him.
I just got to get them take a chance,” Callaway deadpanned. “Whoever takes a shot on me won’t regret it.”