Brylee Callender's Choice Brings Him Home

Brylee Callender, a 6-foot-1, 189-pound sophomore running back from Feather River (CA) Community College, committed to Minnesota Sunday evening after visiting the campus this weekend. Callender helped lead the Golden Eagles to a 7-4 mark this season, including an appearance in the Silicon Valley Bowl where they lost to Foothill College, 35-33. GoldenSports.Net caught up with Callender's mother, Traci Friedges, to learn the latest on his decision.

Brylee Callender rushed 97 times for 647 yards (6.7 yards per carry) with nine rushing touchdowns and caught 23 passes for 521 yards (22.6 yards per reception) with five receiving scores for the Golden Eagles in the regular season. He returned 12 punts for 146 yards. His 1,314 all-purpose yards were the second best in the Mid Empire Conference.

Minnesota assistant coach Vic Adamle had traveled to Feather River to visit with Callender last Tuesday. Minnesota had offered him a scholarship as a senior and has continued to follow him in junior college. Adamle, who is the Gophers' running backs coach, had traveled to Feather River in September to watch Callender practice. Callender will begin his finals Dec. 16 and will return home for Christmas and prepare for enrolling at Minnesota in January.

The Gophers had been monitoring his academics at Feather River. Callender had failed to qualify out of high school. He had made great strides in the classroom as a senior, but had fallen too far behind early in his career.

Callender has worked hard on his academics to graduate in a year and a half. This would allow him to enroll at a Division I school in January and participate in spring practice, according to Friedges.

"He returned to Feather River Sunday morning. He has taken five finals and still has two left. He will be done Friday and returning home on the 20th."

Friedges said that they were concerned about the Gophers running back depth before the visit, but the Gopher coaches reassured her and Brylee that it would not be a problem.

"The coaches told us that they normally have 11 running backs on their roster, but this season they only had eight (running backs Laurence Maroney, Gary Russell, Amir Pinnix and Ben Hason and fullbacks Justin Valentine, Junior Eugene and Jasom Lamers)."

Friedges said that the plan is for Callender to play only at running back, unlike what was reported other places.

"They never discussed anything other than running back. They said that they would not have gone after him if they could not use him. They said we would not bring him here if we would not use him."

Friedges said that the Gophers had been closely following her son.

"They told us that they normally don't recruit junior college players. They would rather invest time in high school kids, but they know what Brylee can do. They have seen him on tape from college and from high school. A scholarship had been on the board since high school."

Friedges said that it will be nice to have Callender close to home and playing at the Metrodome, where he has had great success.

Callender rushed 266 times for 2,132 yards as he led Lakeville (MN) High to a 14-0 record and a Class 5A state championship as a high school senior. He rushed 26 times for 226 yards and two scores in the championship game and 22 times for 266 yards with three touchdowns in the semifinals. Callender had 37 rushing touchdowns and three receiving scores as a senior and was named to the Minneapolis Star Tribune All-Metro Team, AP All-State and St. Paul Pioneer Press All-State team.

"He is fast on grass, but put him on that field and whoo. He runs a 4.42 40-yard dash."

Callender is also a standout baseball player who batted .355 for the Lakeville's American Legion team in 2003 and was hitting .429 before was suspended from the Panthers baseball team for the rest of the season for violating Minnesota State High School League rules in May. He had attracted the attention from several major league scouts.

Unfortunately, the suspension hurt his chances of being seen by more major league scouts and he went undrafted in the MLB Draft in June.

Callender had toyed with playing baseball at Feather River last spring, but decided to concentrate on working in the weight room. Friedges said that baseball is definitely on the back burner.

"Baseball is there. He can pick up a bat and hit homers. It comes naturally. He had thought about playing baseball last season, but he told me, 'I think I really need to get into the weight room.' The weight room ethics are so different with baseball and football. Baseball is mostly core strength, while football is a lot of lower body strength. I don't think that he plans to go back to baseball. If he got hurt that could change, but he is committed to football."

Callender is expected to provide depth to the Gophers backfield, which will likely lose Maroney to the NFL Draft.

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