April 22, 2008
Oxford, OH (UWIRE) -- To some individuals, football is more than a game; it is a lifestyle-a lifestyle that could be taken away at any given moment. An injury in football can act as a real gut-check to a player as the road back to success can be physically and psychologically damaging.
For Miami University running back Jimmy Calhoun, his moment to face adversity came during 2007 spring ball practice his sophomore year. After being pushed in the back, Calhoun heard his left knee pop, the same way it did in a baseball game his senior year of high school.
That pop Calhoun heard had torn three-fourths of his patella tendon away from his left kneecap, but without realizing it, he continued to participate in summer workouts.
"Summer workouts were awful; I was literally in tears after every conditioning session (because) my knees hurt so bad," Calhoun said. "I was taking 13 Aleve's a day. I was going through bottles like Skittles. It was ridiculous."
Born and raised in Middletown, Ohio, Calhoun was raised in a family where football was a way life. Every male in his family for over three generations played college football. His dad and uncles played for Marshall University, while his cousins have played at Georgetown, Purdue, Tennessee-Martin and Mississippi universities.
"Football: it's like a religion, its all we do," Calhoun said. "I always wanted to play baseball, but I had to play football, it's just what you do."
Calhoun's father offered him 50 dollars in the third grade to give the game a try. He took his money and never looked back.
His career began with a great deal of success at a young age, playing running back and averaging 56 yards per carry and five touchdowns per game in two seasons at Varity Middle School.
Calhoun's size and speed allowed him to succeed at the next level and become the only freshman to start a varsity game at Middletown High School. Scouts were so impressed with the young athlete that he received his first college letter his freshman year from the University of Illinois.
Calhoun displayed why he belonged on the varsity team at such a young age when he took his second carry from scrimmage 78 yards. Later in a successful high school career, Calhoun made Middletown history after rushing for 336 yards, second most all-time for the school, on nine carries in a game against Cincinnati Oak Hills.
When it was time to start looking at colleges, letters piled in from various Big Ten schools, including hometown favorite Ohio State University, and the college of his dreams, Northwestern University.
After running a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash for former head coach Ryan Walker at Northwestern, Calhoun immediately received an offer that he said he would commit to without hesitation.
Coach Walker, who coached with such a passion for the game before his sudden passing at the age of 52 in 2006, gave Calhoun some advice that shaped the rest of his future. Walker advised Calhoun to experience several other schools before he threw himself into a situation he would be miserable in at a later date. This led Calhoun to Miami University.
"Miami was a completely different school than any other school I've been to," Calhoun said. "As soon as I walked into that locker room, every player, even the guys that were fifth years and I'd never play with were coming up to me shaking my hand, talking to me. Ben Roethlisberger put his arm around me. I felt welcome from the first day I stepped into Miami's locker room."
After that moment, Calhoun found himself in Miami head coach Terry Hoeppner's office, locked in a handshake. As Hoeppner stared Calhoun in the eyes, hetold him that if they were to shake hands, it would create a bond that Calhoun couldn't break.
For Calhoun, the decision became clear: pursue a career as a Redhawk. Calhoun red-shirted his freshman year, but during his sophomore year, he got the opportunity to display the power and speed he showed throughout his previous career. Though he saw minimal action, Calhoun took advantage of his opportunities allowing him to score a touchdown against Big-Ten powerhouse Ohio State.
"Jimmy was a player who we had high expectations for," said Miami head coach Shane Montgomery. "When he first came here he was a bigger running back who had good speed."
But things changed when Calhoun faced an injury his sophomore year. After a season where Calhoun began to find his role and fit into the offense, his knee popped while being pushed in the back at a spring ball game. Calhoun could no longer endure the pain he went through each day after conditioning.
Doctors suggested surgery to his knee that would be his only chance of ever playing again. The surgery entailed having two holes drilled into his right kneecap in order to re-attach his patella tendon. Slits were cut into his tendon so they could stretch, promoting growth of the tendon.
After extensive rehab, a period where Calhoun found himself in the trainer's room 85 percent of his day and watched his grade point average plummet, Calhoun was ready to return during spring ball his junior year.
Calhoun put up a two touchdown, 100-yard effort in his spring game debut, calming the fears he and his family may have had about the future of his career.
His season started taking a turn for the worse as his other knee started bothering him in summer practice.
Calhoun tried to compensate for his knee pain and as a result continually found himself pulling hamstrings and groins. After being looked at by trainers and doctors it seemed the same surgery would have to be performed.
After a long discussion with Coach Montgomery, Calhoun was offered a medical scholarship. With a medical scholarship, Calhoun would continue to get a full-ride education, an offer he took in order to graduate and pursue a future outside of football. Calhoun's mind however was far from out of football.
"Watching guys I was in front of on the roster starting and playing every game is just like, man, oh it hurts, it hurts to watch that," Calhoun said. "Every Saturday it got to the point where I did not like watching football anymore, I just didn't like it. I would only sit through the games to support my friends, it was tough, really, really, tough."
Looking back on his career Calhoun would never trade it for the world. At first he was mentally weakened by his injuries but has overcome adversity.
"Career ending injuries are extremely difficult to deal with mentally," said offensive assistant James Hoffman, whose career was also cut short by injury. "It prepares you for life and the possible disappointments that come along. It helps you at a young age overcome adversity. Playing football is going to end at some point, for some it just happens earlier than others."
Miami has played 12 of the 14 scheduled spring practices this year. The 13th practice is Tuesday at 4 p.m.. The spring season will conclude with the annual spring game at 8 p.m. April 25.
(C) 2008 The Miami Student via UWIRE