This article appears in the September 2004 edition of SchoolSports magazine.
Callahan Bright loves to fix himself up a good meal. Chicken. Steak. Whatever's in the fridge. Rest assured, Harriton's (Pa.) mammoth 6-foot-3, 315-pound senior defensive tackle knows his way around the kitchen. Quite the little, er, colossal chef.
"When I was young, I was always hungry — even when it wasn't meal time," says Bright, who is rated the nation's No. 2 defensive lineman and No. 19 overall recruit in the Class of 2005 by SchoolSports.com. "I had to get good at cooking for myself, man. That was survival."
Bright is pretty much a by-necessity player, too. He flies around the field — patrolling vast acreage and pancaking opponents — simply because he has to. Or at least that's the way he figures it.
"I just go get people," says Bright, a SchoolSports All-American who counts Miami, LSU, USC, Texas A&M and Nebraska among the leading candidates for his collegiate services. "I think once that football moves, it's my job to go get it. I should do anything in my power to go get it. There's no question about it. I've just got that mentality to hit people."
That mentality helped Bright rack up 100 tackles, 14 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries during his junior season at Harriton. And true to his word, he did it any which way. Swim moves, rip moves, bull rushes, speed rushes. Anything in his power.
Given his 380-pound bench press and 4.9 speed in the 40-yard dash, that's a lot of power.
"He's the best defensive tackle prospect I've seen in the last five years," says ESPN high school football recruiting expert Tom Lemming, editor of the Prep Football Report and usaprep.com. "He's a bigger version of Warren Sapp, and his motor is always going. If he keeps his head on straight and stays focused, I think we'll be hearing his name called as a high NFL Draft pick four years from now."
Considering Lemming picks the U.S. Army All-American Bowl honorees, you can go ahead and mark Bright down as a choice for the 2005 roster.
"He just never quits," says Harriton fourth-year head football coach Harold Smith, 36. "He just runs all over the place."
Bright's biggest upside may be his sense of perspective. He knows his whistle-to-whistle intensity is a huge mental edge, but he also recognizes he's simply physically overpowering kids right now.
Naturally, Bright understands those advantages will shrink as he climbs the ladder into the collegiate game and, hopefully, beyond. So he's determined to evolve as a player.
"I just come off the ball explosively," says Bright, who will turn 18 on Jan. 16. "Once I lay into a blocker, I really feel like they can't think fast enough to overcome my strength and speed.
"I've got to keep working on my hand placement and on shedding blockers, getting off blocks," he adds. "When you come up against those 6-7, 340-pound guys with arms that are like six feet long, there's nothing you can do. You've got to learn to counter them."
Bright is the first to tell you he hasn't always possessed such clear purpose in life. He spent his freshman and sophomore years at Glen Mills, a residential school in Concordville for court-referred young men. Bright says what landed him at Glen Mills is "in the past" and now makes a point of mentioning how important it is to "stay out of trouble."
But at Glen Mills, he began to refine his passion for football. As a sophomore two-way player, Bright anchored the Bulls' offensive line at right tackle, keying a rushing attack that amassed more than 1,700 yards on a team that finished 3-6 despite averaging 21.5 points per game.
Come to think of it, one wonders where Harriton, which finished 5-5 in 2003, would have been without him last fall.
Bright says he worked his way back to his hometown of Bryn Mawr living by a simple motto. A slight adaptation of something his brother, Eugene, a redshirt freshman defensive end at Purdue, once told him: frustration loses games. Bright also believes "frustration causes problems off the field."
"That's why I just stay in the house and keep my frustrations to a minimum," says Bright, who played on both sides of the ball at Glen Mills but has become a full-time defensive player at Harriton. "That way, I keep out of trouble."
"If he listens to his coaches at this and the next level, his upside is tremendous," says coach Smith, a former collegiate player at West Chester University. "He needs to work hard off the field to maintain the advantages he has."
Frustration on the football field, mind you, is a different animal for blue-chip recruits like Bright. That's a lesson he's learning the hard way.
"People think and expect more of you and hold you to another standard," says Bright. "After a play, people will look at you like, ‘Where were you at on that one?' And it's like, I can't make a play on everything. I'm human, too."
Still, it seems awfully clear that Callahan Bright is tuned to the right frequency these days. His hunger and his power and his ability to defuse frustration appear to be grooving themselves into sync. That good fortune means a lot of things, but mostly it means if you're an offensive lineman, you'd better hope your future doesn't hold in store a meeting with Bright.
"You just gotta think long term and stay motivated," says Bright. "Don't think about any short-term things. It's about the big picture. If you want to go to the league, you gotta think about football as a job."