Sept. 15, 2005
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - It seemed like an innocuous comment at first.
"I'm a running back," Brian Calhoun said after setting career highs for carries (43), yards (258) and touchdowns (five) in his Wisconsin debut, a 56-42 shootout over Bowling Green.
But it wasn't an aw-shucks, shrug-of-the-shoulder type of thing, and not one of those it's-just-what-I-do remarks, either.
It was a message to his former school, Colorado, and Buffaloes coach Gary Barnett, who wanted to move Calhoun to receiver to make way for Bobby Purify at tailback last year.
Instead, Calhoun, who already had soured on the school when his running backs coach, Eric Bieniemy, left for UCLA after his freshman year, transferred to Madison, a two-hour drive from his hometown of Oak Creek, Wis.
"I'm sure there's probably a lot of people in Colorado who are shocked by my performance," said Calhoun, whose six touchdowns in two games are one more than he had in his two years in Boulder. "I didn't have a lot of support out there as a running back and I just wanted to prove that I'm a running back and that I can carry 30 or 40 times a game."
Barnett certainly isn't shocked by Calhoun's success.
"Brian was a good player for us. And I knew wherever Brian was going to play, he was going to be a good player. He has great speed and good work habits, and he's an explosive player," Barnett said. "So, that doesn't surprise me a bit."
Calhoun, who led the Buffaloes with 810 yards and five touchdowns in 2003, said he'll be driven all season to prove he should be taking handoffs and not just running routes.
"I'm sure Barnett probably still thinks I'm not a running back," Calhoun said. "But that's definitely my motivation throughout the season, that I can carry a full load and be durable."
Those remarks are in contrast to the ones Calhoun made in May of 2004, when he decided to transfer.
"My reason for leaving is far different than everybody expects and thinks," his statement said. "It has nothing to do with playing time or switching positions, but I have discussed my situation with my parents, and we have come up with a decision to transfer. We feel it is the right decision and we plan on moving on."
Barnett maintained this week that the proposed position switch wasn't at the heart of Calhoun's dissatisfaction: "That's not why Brian left," Barnett said, declining to discuss the matter further.
Calhoun now insists it was the reason for his departure.
"Obviously, I'm a running back and I wanted to play running back and they had different plans, which is fine. It was just time to split ways," Calhoun said.
Calhoun acknowledges he had difficulty adjusting after Bieniemy, who had recruited him, left: "He left and my feeling toward the university and being in Colorado changed."
He thought about transferring to UCLA to reunite with his mentor, "but going out there would be even farther away from home. So, it was pretty much a no-brainer to come back to Wisconsin," he said.
Calhoun, who will lead the Badgers (2-0) and the nation's highest-scoring offense (60.5) into Chapel Hill, N.C., on Saturday to face the Tar Heels (0-1) in Wisconsin's first visit to an ACC school, had to sit out last season under NCAA transfer rules.
He had an immediate impact on the program nonetheless.
Thickening his body in the weight room, the 5-foot-10, 194-pound tailback gave defenders fits while running on the scout team.
Defensive end Dontez Sanders said facing Calhoun every day helped turn the Badgers into one of the nation's elite defenses last year.
"Most teams do not get a back like that on scout team," Sanders said. "We had to chase him, we had to contain him every day in practice. So, it made us run faster. We wish he could have played last year."
Badgers coach Barry Alvarez knew he had something special for 2005, though.
"The thing that really impressed me was a guy who had been a starter in a big-time program comes in, doesn't look down his nose or feel that it's demeaning to him to run on the scout team," Alvarez said. "I think what that did was give him the respect of all the players as well as the coaches.
"It just showed me the type of person he is, that he was glad that he was here."