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CAAFB Gameday Features — William and Mary Senior Profile: Mike Callahan

Sep 4, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

The following Q&A Feature is available at tribeathletics.comClick here or take a read below.

What is your full name?
Mike Sean Callahan

Where are you from?
Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

What is it best known for?
There is a large Amish population.

Do you see horse and buggies on the roads?
You’ll see them on the roads; they can slow traffic down.

Lancaster County is also the hometown of former Tribe great quarterback Mike Cook. Was there any connection with his being here and your decision to come to W&M?
Well, for starters, I believe Mike’s father (Carl) was a labor and industry inspector that inspected many of the buildings that my father’s company constructed. But, more specifically, Mike went to my high school’s (Hempfield) biggest rival (Conestoga Valley). The head coach at Conestoga Valley at the time gave Coach Laycock a call and talked to him about my abilities after he found out I was looking into coming to William and Mary.

Did you have a lot of other playing options coming out of high school?
I had some offers from the Northeast Conference; like Monmouth, Albany and Stony Brook, but I had pretty much decided on walking-on here, where I could get a better education.

In high school, were you a part of any non-sports related clubs?
No. I played football and basketball—that was it.

As a fifth-year senior, this is the first year you have been on scholarship. Given the incredible time commitment to play football, did you ever question your decision to continue playing?
No, I never really considered “is it worth it?” I’ve always loved the game and loved to play it. It’s always a plus just going to practice and hanging out with the guys. Playing quarterback, you just have to pay your dues because, you know, there’s only one quarterback who plays.

After spending time as the scout team quarterback in your freshman season, you spent the next two years working with the travel squad, correct?
Yeah, I signaled in plays. But, during those two years (redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons) I never took a rep with the entire team for two years.

How were you able to stay focused over that period of time?
Just the guys on the team, honestly. My first three years, I was playing behind great quarterbacks like (Mike) Potts and [Jake] Phillips. RJ [Archer] at the time was a wide out, so I just tried to take in everything that they had learned. I talked to them as much as I could and listened to coach teach. It was valuable in the sense that I got to see how the whole program was run.

Do you feel like you learned a lot during that time period?
Yes, I definitely mastered the offense. I saw how coach calls plays, runs meetings, how game days work and all that stuff.

Are you familiar with the term “taking mental reps”?
Oh, I know everything there is to know about a mental rep.

Going into the summer of your junior year (2009), what was your goal?
I saw an opportunity. Obviously RJ was tabbed as the starter, but it was a big opportunity to be a backup and start getting reps. I came off a really good spring where I had played well, and I was just really excited about the opportunity. I worked really hard that summer. I was actually working out with the defensive backs trying to get my footwork better because RJ was such an athletic quarterback; I was trying to make my game more similar to his.

You came into camp last fall as one of the top candidates for the top reserve, correct?
Yes, the fall camp went well. I think I was taking the two reps and working in some with the ones, when RJ wasn’t taking the reps. Then, in our last scrimmage before the UVA game, on the first play I ran for like 12 yard’s and I got hit high going out of bounds and stumbled awkwardly. My knee buckled and I tore my ACL and my LCL. That was pretty much it for my season.

What was it like when you found out you were hurt?
I had been working for four years to get to that point. I finally got to smell the backup reps. You know if you’re the number two, you’re pretty much number one because you’re a play away from the field. But, that injury pretty much took me from the top all the way to the bottom. What I had literally shuts down every muscle in your leg. You have to get surgery, rehab and start from the bottom.

Did you know as soon as it happened that you were so seriously injured?
No because I had never been hurt before. When I was in the fourth grade I broke my elbow and a few fingers here and there, but I had never done anything serious like that. I just remember the wind getting knocked out of me and my knee was throbbing. After I saw it on tape I could see the knee shoot in, but I didn’t know until they told me.

How did you react when you first found out?
I was pretty crushed. Last year was literally the worst year of my life, until the [this past] spring time came around and I started getting back up on my feet. Like I said, I had never been hurt before so I didn’t really know how to deal with injuries. I was bugging the trainers every single day, they were pretty much sick of me. I asked them entirely too many questions and tried everything to get back quicker. If you’ve never been hurt before it’s a real long road. It’s hard to explain to someone who has never had a serious injury because you literally have to learn how to walk again, then how to jog, then how to balance, you have to go through everything.

Did you ever fear that you weren’t going to get back to the same opportunity that you had?
Definitely—it was in my mind from the second it happened. Ten years ago, if you tore your ACL your career was very likely over. [Former Penn State tailback] Ki-Jana Carter was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. He tore his ACL and that was it. Technology has come really far. I wasn’t sure; I didn’t know how my body was going to respond.

Did you ever feel sorry for yourself?
No, I never felt sorry for myself. Football is a contact sport and everybody gets hurt. You just have to deal with it and move on.

Was there any frustration last spring from not being able to participate?
Spring was tough because I thought I was going to be able to go. The first day of practice I had a great day. The next day my knee swelled up to the size of a baseball and I couldn’t go the following day. It was one of those things where I could literally only go every other day because it would swell up pretty bad the day after practice. I wanted to be competing because we obviously had a lot of competition for the starting spot. I just wanted to be out there.

What was your focus this summer?
My focus was football this summer. I didn’t have a job, I took a few classes to get ready for this master’s (of accounting) program I’m in. Every day we lifted and ran in the mornings, threw in the afternoons. I was taking care of my knee, icing it a lot, stretching. I was doing pretty much anything and everything I could.

Did you ever fear that you wouldn’t be able to make it back to where you were?
Not really. Two weeks before fall camp I had a huge setback with my calf in my bad leg – it basically gave out on me. [Head Athletic Trainer] Andy [Carter] told me I was working out too much, too hard and just told me to stop. So the last two weeks prior to camp, he told me to lie on my couch or else my calf would be terrible all season. I wouldn’t say I was scared, but I was pretty upset going into camp.

Was the Aug. 25 scrimmage the last formal dress rehearsal for the season? Going into that scrimmage, was your mind at all on what happened the year before?
Yes, it was roughly the one-year anniversary of my injury. I only thought about it once during the day. I ate lunch with [junior middle linebacker Jake] Trantin. He was talking about how every year, with guys tired and it being the end of camp, we usually get people banged up; we always lose some guys in this scrimmage. That’s the only time I really thought about it when he brought that up, but you really can’t think about it.

How did you feel after the scrimmage?
I was very excited after the scrimmage. I thought I played very well; I was just excited to make it past another milepost for myself.

What would it mean to you if you were named as the starter?
It would mean the world to me. Just coming from where I came from; starting with the scout team, to signal man getting no reps, to being hurt last year. Working my way from the bottom up to the top. If I get it, my goal will be to keep the spot, win games and hopefully make it into the playoffs again and make a run at this national championship.

If you were to run out on the field on opening day, can you even guess what would be going through your mind?
Let’s get this win.

What is your biggest strength as a player?
My leadership and experience with the offense. Having the knowledge of where everyone should be and being able to motivate the guys and getting them to play at their best level.

How hard was it for you to finish your degree in business in four years?
It wasn’t hard just because I stayed here every summer and was able to knock out non-business classes over the summer, which got my credits up. And once you’re in the business school you pretty much have everything laid out for you.

How much crossover do you see between football and the business school?
Football teaches you leadership, perseverance, organization in just your daily life. In football you are very structured and if you bring that structure into the classroom you can’t help but benefit from it. I definitely think that football helped me out with the business school and vice versa.

Future goals?
After football this spring I have one more semester to finish up my master’s in accounting. Then I’d like to go to law school and go the corporate route into business law.

Ideal job?
Real estate developer. My father is in the construction business, which is along the same lines.

Interests outside of athletics?
Friends, just like any other kids. I like to hang out with friends and watch movies and go to the beach.

Last book you’ve read?
Jon Gruden’s book Do You Love Football?! I am currently reading a book called Outliers that is pretty good. It’s about life lessons. My father gave it to me on my 22nd birthday.

Do you think you could write a book on perseverance by the time you’re done?
I don’t know, I’m pretty young but maybe by the time I’m about 60.

Favorite Movie?
Training Day

Favorite TV Show?
Hard Knocks or Sports Center? I literally watch it every day.

What makes you unique?
I like talking to people.