It's a shame that it took Antonio Callaway so long to get it
Seven months ago, I wrote why Antonio Callaway should have played his last game at Florida.
That was after the Gators receiver was one of nine players involved in a credit card fraud scandal before the start of the 2017 season. Jim McElwain suspended all the players involved for the season opener against Michigan. It was actually the first time that McElwain suspended Callaway for a game.
The time he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation wasn’t enough to warrant a game suspension from McElwain, despite the fact that Callaway’s defense was “I was so stoned, I had no interest in having sex with anyone.”
There was also the time when Callaway was arrested for marijuana possession while driving in Gainesville with a 40-year-old criminal who had been arrested for battery, cocaine possession, drug trafficking, grand theft, and lewd and lascivious behavior with a child 12 to 16 years of age.
But no, it took until the credit card fraud scandal for Callaway to finally get suspended for an actual game. Well, he spent the entire season suspended. As we learned Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Callaway said he watched every Florida game and it was “depressing” not to be part of it.
“All of those situations could’ve been prevented,” Callaway told reporters Friday. “I look back and I just pray to God every day. It’s a blessing just to here talking to y’all with the situation I’m at.”
Callaway addressed the media, eager to get another opportunity to play football. He ruined that at Florida. According to him, his off-field behavior was the reason McElwain was fired in the middle of the 2017 season. We can debate who spoiled who’s future, but Callaway did his best to show that he finally understands a basic principle.
His actions impact way more people than the man in the mirror.
“It’s bigger than me,” Callaway said Friday. “It ain’t about me. I got a new girl that I just got a few weeks ago … I’ve got 4 little sisters, a single mom, I’ve gotta make it happen. I can’t be out here making little mistakes and putting myself in bad situations.”
It’s frustrating to think about Callaway’s career. It’s not frustrating to think about missing out on getting to watch a talented player. There are plenty of prospects in Indianapolis alone who did just that in 2017.
It’s frustrating to think about the ripple effect of Callaway’s actions. To a certain extent, he’s right about being part of McElwain’s demise. I mean, Florida won two division titles with Callaway on the field and won just 4 games without him in 2017. Feleipe Franks lacked a deep threat and Florida was desperate for a veteran playmaker on special teams.
The Gators were a mess on and off the field last year, and no one player epitomized that dysfunction more than Callaway.
His comments Friday finally recognized that. If Callaway truly believes he really was the reason for McElwain’s departure, then he was responsible for changing the lives of assistant coaches, teammates, fans and many more (and not in a good way).
But now, Callaway recognizes that he has family depending on him. Maybe it was the arrival of his newborn daughter that finally put things in perspective. Perhaps it was sitting out the season and not getting the benefit of the doubt because of his on-field abilities.
Those abilities are the only reason that Callaway got an invite to Indianapolis. Plenty of prospects who had productive seasons and didn’t have three major incidents in college spent the weekend watching the combine on TV.
Callaway got a chance to run a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and look solid in position drills, which at least showed NFL teams that he didn’t spend the past 7 months feeling sorry for himself.
Antonio Callaway, beautiful. pic.twitter.com/QMgetk1LZZ
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) March 3, 2018
That doesn’t mean Callaway is a lock to get drafted. One AFC executive already said that Callaway probably won’t even be on their draft board. Still, he’ll meet with as many teams as he can, fully aware of the elephant in the room.
“It ain’t about what I can do on the field,” Callaway said. “It’s more about my character. They want to get to know me as a person.”
What they want to know is if Callaway finally turned the corner. And while he said all the right things at his press conference, there’s no guarantee that he won’t slip up again. Gator fans heard McElwain defend Callaway’s “new mindset” all too many times.
He’s been given ample chances to succeed in his life, and honestly, he did more than enough to throw it all away. Somehow, though, he’s in position to get another chance from the NFL. He ran out of chances at Florida.
I found it interesting that Callaway said that he actually wanted to return to school for his senior year, but after meeting with the new coaching staff, he decided to turn pro.
Maybe that’s what helped turn things around for Callaway. For probably the first time in his life, he wasn’t welcomed back with open arms. Bad choices are supposed to have consequences. It’s a lesson that we all must learn at some point. His realization just happened a few years too late.
Just like with Florida’s new coaching staff, there might not be anything Callaway can say that can convince certain front offices that he’s a changed man. That’s how it should be. It’s long been since time for Callaway to act like a man who takes responsibility for his actions.
It’s now or never. All Callaway can hope is that someone rolls the dice and gives him the benefit of the doubt one more time.
“I’m a great kid. I’ve learned from my past. I’m moving on,” he said. “It’s a bigger picture.”