Lions' Calhoun readies for NFL career, life

Following the completion of his rookie contract and just before he is due to report to training camp, Lions' running back Brian Calhoun spoke with's Nate Caminata about his new deal, his thoughts on training camp and more. Exclusive interview inside.

With his father's help, the transplanted Milwaukee, WI native has moved almost every box into his new home. It's 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, but despite an exhausting last few days, he sounds wide awake. He's nervous. He is excited. But he's also confident. School is over, and he starts his new job tomorrow afternoon.

And an hour ago, Brian Calhoun just learned he was a millionaire.

Things are moving quickly.

"I've been here the last few days, trying to organize and put clothes away," said Calhoun from his southeastern Michigan condo. "I haven't been doing too much because I have to prepare and report to camp."

In April, Calhoun -- a running back -- was selected in the third round by the Detroit Lions. At the collegiate level, he was a standout tailback for a University of Wisconsin offense that featured him extensively. He broke school records. Last September, he dazzled over 83,000 Badger fans in Camp Randall stadium, running roughshod over Michigan for 214 all-purpose yards and snapping the Wolverines' string of 23 consecutive Big Ten opener wins.

Calhoun left opposing defenders
grasping at air frequently during
his collegiate play at Wisconsin.

But on Thursday, "around noon", none of that means anything.

Calhoun will be another shirt as Detroit's rookies check-in to the team's annual training camp. In the National Football League, everyone is good. And no one's job is secure -- even if you're a third round pick. Just ask Maurice Clarett.

After taking the phone call from his agent, Jason Fletcher (the brother of Lions' DB Jamar Fletcher), Calhoun was relieved to find that he would be able to afford his new mortgage -- and make it past the security at the Lions' Allen Park training facility. With less than 24 hours to report, he avoided any holdout.

"It's more of a relief than anything because as a rookie you want to be in camp on time and you want to learn and be there for as much as possible," he said. "Not missing any time was an important factor for me."

Calhoun's deal will span four years, involves $750,000 in guaranteed money and totaled $2.36 million. But while the paperwork is completed, Calhoun must go to work. He will be in pads, according to head coach Rod Marinelli, everyday. Twice a day. He will pull a sled, and he will push a sled. And after a short while, he will be able to determine each linebacker by the smell of their breath.

No one ever said training camp was fun.

Calhoun admitted that there is a series of emotions flooding his mind before he begins camp.

"I think its a combination of a lot of things," he said, "Obviously, I'm a rookie and you really don't know what training camp is going to be like and you try to learn new plays and adjust to a new city, team and coaching staff. I'm definitely excited to get going and see what this season hold for the me and the team as a whole."

Calhoun will enter camp as a third down running back. It is a role often left to the more versatile of the tailbacks; a player with pass catching ability and open field awareness. Standing at just 5'9, Calhoun will provide an interesting dynamic to Detroit's backfield -- the reason why the Lions plucked him in the draft's first day.

But the transition from college to the NFL goes beyond taking a hand-off or catching the pigskin and outrunning refrigerator-sized defenders.  He will have to learn an advanced pro playbook authored by offensive coordinator Mike Martz. He'll also have to earn playing time with a crowded backfield that includes starter Kevin Jones, veteran's Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner and newcomer Arlen Harris. Calhoun will get a crash-course on the learning curve under Martz's watchful eye.

"I think the most challenging part is the mental aspect of it," said Calhoun, "There's definitely a lot terminology I have to deal with. The pros is so much more intricate and it can be overwhelming at times, but you have to stick with it and study your playbook. If you do that, it will allow you to be more comfortable with (the transition)."

Kevin Jones has helped Calhoun ease into his new surroundings a bit. Calhoun's locker is besides Jones', and the third-year running back took the rookie under his wings during minicamps and off-season training activities.

"We've actually gotten along pretty well," said Calhoun, "He's helped me along and really shown me a little bit and he's been like a big brother. It's definitely been a good relationship for me."

With the depth at running back, there isn't necessarily a pecking order just yet. But with just a few weeks before Detroit's first pre-season game, time is of the essence. Players that make an impact during practice swing the coaching staff's attention. While Calhoun's draft status does lend a bit more rope, even if he does land on the roster, playing time is not guaranteed.

In this league, players can get lost on the depth chart quickly.

"There hasn't been anything identified yet (as far as roles)," said Calhoun of the offensive backfield, "Kevin Jones is the starter and really everybody is trying to get a feel for the new offense with a new coach and new coordinator. Once we get more comfortable and install everything, then we'll have a chance to start isolating more guys and determine roles."

Calhoun will also have the opportunity to work with Martz. Known by many for his offensive brilliance, Martz's reputation has not disappointed since Calhoun began working in Allen Park during the off-season. Martz asks that all of his running backs be capable -- at any given time -- to catch the ball, whether out of the backfield or in the flat. Or 30 yards downfield.

The thought of being involved in an offensive system, one that spawned its own nickname ("The Greatest Show on Turf") a few years ago during Martz's tenure in St. Louis, has Calhoun thrilled.

"His reputation is what it is," said Calhoun of Martz, "He is a 'Mad Scientist' and he wants everything to be perfect. He always has an answer for everything. He definitely knows what he's doing, and I think it's going to be great. You'll see some glimpses and signs of our offense being similar to what he ran a couple years ago in St. Louis."

In the meantime, however, Calhoun will attempt to rest. He might sleep. He might not. Thursday is a big day.

"It's an exciting time," said Calhoun, "Just for everybody in my family to see a lot dreams come true for me. It's definitely something to be proud of and excited about it."

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