Brian Callahan came to UCLA a year ago. He's undersized at 5-11, doesn't have a particularly strong arm and isn't particular fast or athletic, but he says he does have some advantages that other quarterbacks don't. He is the son of Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan. He's a smart kid, who's been around football his entire lifetime and has, directly and through osmosis, studied the quarterback position and offenses extensively [Interesting fact: Bill Callahan coached at Illinois the last time UCLA played the Illini, in the 1984 Rose Bowl].
Brian Callahan was a quarterback on the varsity for two years at Concord De La Salle High School, but never started a game, sitting behind Matt Gutierrez, who is now the #2 quarterback at Michigan. He hasn't actually played in a game since his senior season, in December of 2001.
Brian Callahan talked Tuesday about the new responsibilties he has on this UCLA team this week.
What's your feeling right now about this, and being the #2 quarterback this week?
"I'm excited. It gives me an opportunity that I wouldn't otherwise have. The situation is unfortunate. It's not how you want it to happen. But at the same time you have to take advantage of what you get, especially being a walk-on and an undersized quarterback. It makes it tough to get an opportunity. Again, the situation isn't ideal but you have to take what you can get. Hopefully I'll make the most of it."
If you would have been told last week that you'd be in this position, how would you have reacted?
"To be honest, I wouldn't have been surprised, but I would have laughed. It's one of those things, especially when Matt went down, that you have to think about. You can't not expect it. I expected to come into this week as number three, and I expected to prepare like I was going to be playing. But last week, if you would have said it to me I probably would have given you guys a little laugh and said, ‘Alright.'"
How has being your father's son given you an advantage as a quarterback?
"It's given me a considerable advantage. I've seen so many quarterbacks in person, and been able to study offenses. And I've not only seen so many in person, that doesn't even account for the guys I've watched on film. I've had access to things that most people don't. Every year I watch the outgoing senior class – the draft tapes. I watch all of those guys and their workouts, just for me, to get a feel for whose out there, and to get a feel for things, too, in terms of mechanics and things like that. How things are supposed to look instead of how things shouldn't look. It's definitely given me some different advantages that other players don't have."
Was it tough not starting a game in high school?
"It was tough because Matt Guietterez, the guy I was behind at Concord De La Salle, was an Elite 11 guy and one of the types who was a top quarterback in the country. I didn't get any playing time as a starter, but I got a ton of playing time as a backup. So, saying I didn't start a game, I still played as much as most quarterbacks do. I did a lot of option work. That's basically what I did in high school, I was a pretty heavy option quarterback. All of the times I worked with my dad, he made me into a passer. So I feel I have a little bit of an advantage there, too."
How prepared do you feel you are to play?
"Very. The thing that's helped me is the fact that I've always taken my mental reps in practice. It's sometimes real tough, but it's something my dad has always stressed to me. Jus be patient, and make sure you know what's going on. Make sure you look at those scripts and know what play is coming up, and looking at the defense, and studying the plays. It's a similar offense to the one they run up in Oakland, and it's one I've been around for a couple of years. A lot of terminology is similar and it's helped me learn the offense. So as far as an offensive standpoint and knowing what to do, I don't think I'm behind in any way. I think I've prepared myself physically, as far as workouts and stuff like that. So I can be just as prepared as Matt or Drew or John, or whoever they would put in their in any given week. It's just a matter of the reps to get everything cleaned up and nailed down to where it feels real good."
Is it a similar feeling to the Cal game last year, where you were suddenly thrown in to wag plays from the sideline?
"It's funny. I was sitting there thinking about it. You always have to put yourself in scenarios, and you kind of wonder ‘what-if' all the time. It's something I've thought about. ‘What if this comes down to me?' It's a kind of strange and surreal feeling. But it's something I've been thinking about and I'm definitely ready for. It kind of caught me off-guard at Cal last year because I was sitting on the sideline, traveled myself to the game, just went home for the weekend, and I'm sitting there, and all of a sudden it all happens and they want me to signal plays. I was like, ‘Wow.' I hadn't signaled plays since August and it was the beginning of October. I was in that situation, and I tell myself that I would never feel like I didn't know what I was doing again. So I made sure I knew everything that was going on, regardless of whether I'm on the scout team or not. I still make sure I know what the offense is doing. And as well I go perform my scout duties, and now I've been relieved of those. It's a little bit bigger of the stage, but same idea. You have to get the job done."