Pasadena, Calif. — Let's jump a year ahead to December of 1984 and the announcement of the Heisman Trophy winner. This is speculation, of course, but don't be surprised if the name that leaps off your newspaper as the nation's top college football player is that of Napoleon McCallum of the US Naval Academy.
If the Midshipmen had been able to reverse their 3-8, won-lost record this year and had been picked to appear in a bowl game, the 6 ft. 2 in., 210-lb. running back might have gotten the prized statuette this season. Instead he's not even among the top contenders, even though statistically he still wound up as the nation's best all-purpose back - which covers yards gained rushing, pass catching, and running back punts and kickoffs.
The foregoing isn't meant to take anything away from Nebraska's Mike Rozier, a tremendous breakaway threat and the heavy favorite in this year's Heisman balloting. But Rozier operates behind the best offensive line you'll see outside the National Football League. McCallum, to get that same kind of mileage, has to work harder.
When Navy whipped Army 42-13 last week in the Rose Bowl in its final game of 1983, Napoleon carried the ball 30 times for 182 yards and one touchdown. That one touchdown could easily have been three if Coach Gary Tranquill hadn't decided to let his quarterback spread the glory around to some of his other backs when Navy got within a rowboat's length of Army's goal line.
One thing McCallum admitted after the Army-Navy game is that he'd someday like to play pro football. Considering that Napoleon, a junior, will owe the Navy five years as an officer after he graduates and won't get out of the service until he's 26 years old, that's a rather ambitious undertaking. But it's not unprecedented.
''What I'd like to do after I graduate is follow the pattern that Roger Staubach did when he was at the Naval Academy and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys,'' McCallum told me. ''I intend to stay in the service my required length of time, but I'll arrange my furloughs like Staubach did so that I can go to training camp each year with whatever NFL team drafts me. And staying in condition during those five years should never be a problem, because actually that's part of my training.''
Staubach achieved pro stardom, of course, but others who have tried have had less success.Glenn Davis, a superstar on Army's 1944-45-46 teams, showed only occasional flashes of that form in two years with the Los Angeles Rams. And Navy's Joe Bellino, who like Davis and Staubach won the Heisman Trophy, had only modest success in three years with the old Boston Patriots.
They did make it though, and with these examples - especially Staubach - there will undoubtedly always be others eager to try. In fact Eddie Myers, who preceded McCallum as Navy's top runner, is doing so right now, having arranged his schedule this year so that he could attend training camp with the Atlanta Falcons.
If you've read anything about McCallum, it probably mentioned that he has only average speed, suggesting that maybe he'd have trouble in the pros. And while time away from the game might unravel his chances, speed in the NFL is less important than quickness, balance, and the natural instincts that allow runners to sense what areas are open to them. One thing the pro scouts noticed about Napoleon early is that he can cut both ways.
McCallum had some great days this season (229 yards against Princeton; 211 yards against Air Force), but his best game probably was against the University of Pittsburgh. The Panthers, who arrived at Annapolis with a reputation for stopping even blue-chip teams on the ground, got ripped by Napoleon for 172 yards.
''I don't know how many times we had McCallum pinned somewhere and then let him break free,'' said Pitt Coach Foge Fazio. ''But on just one play alone I saw him break three tackles, and that was early in the game. What he didn't do with finesse, he did by lowering one of his shoulders and getting leverage that way.''
McCallum, whose parents are Cincinnati high school teachers, originally wanted to major in aerospace engineering. He changed his mind, though, due to the three hours that football practice took from him every day.
''Since there was no way I could stay with both football and engineering, I switched to computer science,'' he said. ''Even then, I wasn't sure I could do it. But if you want something bad enough, I guess you find a solution.''