BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - His catches are becoming the stuff of legends. His statistics are among the best in program history. And yet, the question of "what if" lingers around Union College senior Kyle Callahan.
With three games left in the 2008 regular season, the Covington, Ky. native has amassed 104 career receptions for 1,418 yards and a school-record 19 touchdowns in his career. He ranks fifth in program history in receptions and seventh in receiving yards while owning or sharing every single receiving touchdown record.
With 12 more receptions, Callahan will become just the third player to post two 40-reception seasons in a career and will be the second to haul in 100 catches in a two-year span.
Still, the question of "what could've been" hovers around Callahan.
"It's untelling (the numbers he would've produced)," said Union coach Tommy Reid. The Bulldogs are 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the Mid-South Conference East.
"Kyle's filled a number of a spots due to an injury to himself and then because of an injury to (then quarterback) Joey Waters. It's just untelling what he'd accomplished as a wide receiver all four years."
Recruited as a quarterback, Callahan was quickly shifted to wide receiver his freshman season. However, that didn't last long as a broken arm prevented him from catching the ball, so Callahan was moved to defensive back.
Slated to be a full-time receiver as a sophomore, Callahan lasted just two games at wideout after a knee injury ended then-starting quarterback Joey Waters' season.
As a junior and senior, though, Callahan has been doing nothing but pulling down catches.
"I love the game. I want to play wherever (I'm needed)," said Callahan. "Defensive back is a hard position. I give it up to the people who play defensive back. That's got to be the most athletic position to play because I couldn't do it."
Callahan is the only player in program history to complete and catch over 100 passes and amass over 1,000 receiving and passing yards. He also has 154 career kick return yards, 35 total tackles and an interception to his credit.
Callahan's Career Totals
|Receiving:||104 rec., 1,418 yds., 19 TDs, 13.6 YPR|
|Rushing:||111 att., 284 yds., 2 TDs, 2.5 YPR|
|Passing:||101-of-234 passes, 1,550 yds. 11 TDs, 11 INTs|
|Kickoff Returns:||2 ret., 29 yds., 14.5 YPR|
|Punt Returns:||13 ret., 125 yds., 9.6 YPR|
|Defensive:||15 solo, 20 assists, 35 total tackles, 1 INT, 2 Breakups|
"It's obviously a blessing to have a player like Kyle who can play as many positions as he can. It's not every day you get a kid with that type of ability and is such a team player."
One person who is taking full advantage of Callahan's athleticism is freshman quarterback Mike Brinkley (Anthony, Fla.). The Bulldog signal-caller has thrown for over 1,600 yards with 23 touchdowns, nine of which have been to Callahan.
"He is a real sound receiver, and as a freshman, I need him in there in the pressure situations," said Brinkley. "It's nice to know that no matter what the situation he will go up and go get the ball."
After hauling in 60 passes for 816 yards and eight touchdowns in 2007, Callahan's numbers are bit down this season. He leads the 21st-ranked Bulldogs in receptions (28), receiving yards (329) and receiving touchdowns (nine), but Callahan's 2008 numbers are well off the pace he had last season. Though, that could be due to the fact defenses are keying in on him.
But to say Callahan comes up big in the clutch is an understatement. The 6-foot, 188-pound receiver tied a 22-year old school record with three touchdown receptions against then-No. 24 Malone (Ohio) College with two of the scoring catches being the one-handed variety - one with the left hand and the other with the right.
"My friends always call me ‘Mr. Red Zone" because I'm always catching the ball inside the red zone," Callahan said with an almost embarrassed laugh.
Nevertheless, Callahan, Brinkley and Reid all agreed that the wide receiver's most amazing catch was not one that went for a score.
Facing fourth down and 8, Union was trailing then-No. 25 Shorter (Ga.) College 31-14 midway through the fourth quarter when Callahan came up with an acrobatic catch to keep the drive alive.
"Before the snap, I already knew who I was going to," Brinkley admitted. "I threw the ball behind him, but he caught it was his left hand, spun backwards doing a 360 and somehow ended up on his feet and got some extra yards for the first down."
Reid noted he did not realize how amazing nor how tough of a catch that was until he saw it on film.
"He's made some tremendous catches. I'm not sure how he does it," the Bulldog coach said. "More times than not, he comes up with the ball. It's just a matter of his tremendous concentration and focus."
Reid's not the only person unsure of how Callahan is able to make some of the catches he does.
"I don't know how I do it. Sometimes I get up and wonder how I just did that," said Callahan. "Maybe I'm just lucky."
In addition a solid performer on the field, Callahan more than holds his own in the classroom, Reid noted.
"He's maintained at least a 3.0 (grade-point average) since he's been here and is on track to graduate in May," Reid said of Callahan, who is business administration major. "With what he's done on and off the field for us here at Union, you couldn't ask for anything more out of a kid."
The Bulldogs are in the midst in their best season in over a decade. The team is ranked for the first time since the start of the 1996 and is in line for a potential playoff berth, a position Union has not been in since the end of the 1995 campaign.
While he says that last year's team was possibly more talented, Callahan noted that everything has just clicked just right for the Bulldogs in 2008.
"I feel like last year's team was better (talent-wise)," he said. "But with Mike (Brinkley) joining the team on the offense and the defense getting Willie (Williams) to spark it, our team has surrounded our young guys and we've been a team, a solid unit.
"I couldn't think of a better year to go out on than this one."
Callahan and Union will square off against No. 10 UVa-Wise Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in a MSC East battle.