Ex-Alabama football player Calloway gets new start at AWC

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                </div>In the world of college sports, junior colleges might be compared in some way to halfway houses.  Division I athletes that have fallen into trouble elsewhere often land at a […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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In the world of college sports, junior colleges might be compared in some way to halfway houses.  Division I athletes that have fallen into trouble elsewhere often land at a two-year college, hoping they can resurrect their careers and then convince a major-college coach they are ready to return to the big boys’ game.

It’s a win-win because the athlete gets a second chance – and the junior/community college gets a player with D-I experience and, most often, enough talent to impact the program right away.

The Arizona Western College football program, situated in the Arizona outpost called Yuma, has just become the beneficiary of the process once again.  And, as often happens, the new arrival comes with some baggage to go along with the skill set.

But this transfer is coming from the Division I national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide.  He’s been there, in that rarefied air that so few college players ever get to experience.

Brent Calloway has tasted the good life.  Now a major mistake has him starting over.

Calloway, who played running back and on the special teams at Alabama, was recruited to the national powerhouse with the idea of using him at linebacker; he had been rated the fifth-best LB in the country.  He redshirted his freshman year and played sparingly last year, but recorded eight tackles on special teams and added 63 yards on just the 10 times he carried the ball out of the backfield.

He showed promise that coaches had hoped would blossom next season.  But a run-in with the law brought all that to a screeching halt.  He was caught using another student’s debit card for several purchases after the card had been stolen in a robbery.  It was his second offense; he was charged in 2011 with possession of marijuana.

In mid-February, Nick Saban dropped four players from the team after the latest off-field incident, and Calloway was among them.

At first Calloway looked for another four-year program – and he apparently had quite a few suitors.  But when he accepted the fact that transferring to one of those would require sitting out a year, he turned his attention to the community colleges.

Again he got a boat load of offers, including, he says, just about every junior college in California.

But Arizona Western won the lottery and he will use his time in Yuma to try to rehabilitate a career that looked so promising coming out of Russellville High School (Ala.), where he played running back and linebacker. He was a four-star recruit, an explosive runner that gained 1,974 yards and 29 touchdowns his senior season. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in the state and the No. 38 player in the nation.

He joins a nationally-ranked program that has a reputation for building players up and getting them recruited out to good big-school programs.  In fact, a couple of seasons ago, two AWC players were picked up by Alabama.

When the NCAA mid-year JC transfer signing period arrived following the 2012 season, four Matadors signed to play at Oklahoma State, University of Kansas, University of Utah, and Iowa State.

The Matadors finished the 2012 campaign with an 8-2 overall record and a No.7 national ranking.

Head coach Tom Minnick is hitting his stride as he completed his fifth season in charge of the program, which is trying to re-create some of the prestige it enjoyed when it was a national power in the ’60s and ’70s.  Minnick went 5-5 his first season, but since then has taken the program to three conference titles and four bowl games.

At some point during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the Matadors were ranked as the No. 1 JUCO team in the country.  Last season they climbed to No. 8 before finishing at No. 12 in the regular season.

A 42-37 victory over sixth-ranked Nassau in the El Toro Bowl broke a string of three straight bowl losses and also helped soothe the open wound that was still festering after being beaten by Snow College in the Western States Football League (WSFL) championship game.  It also elevated their national standing from No. 12 to No. 7.

And Minnick returns a solid core from that team, including the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) Offensive Player of the Year.  Tanner McEvoy, a redshirt freshman, earned the award by throwing for 1,943 yards and 25 touchdowns.  He averaged 216 passing yards a game and boasted a 63 percent completion rate, the best in the conference.

Calloway says Minnick hasn’t indicated where he will play next season, since he’s capable of producing at more than one position.  But it’s likely the coach will find someplace to put him.

And the youngster from the South will undoubtedly appreciate the opportunity, not just to play, but to get his life back on track.

“It will give me a chance to get away from everything and focus on what I’m trying to do with my life,” he said in a recent interview in the Franklin County Times.  “I definitely have to watch my surroundings and be mindful of what’s going on around me.  I need to make better decisions on my own.”

If he follows through with those goals, this could be one of those win-win opportunities we just mentioned.

And Alabama’s loss becomes Arizona’s gain.