Snapshot: Brandon Calton

Brandon Calton is 6 feet 2, 291 pounds and just about all of it leans forward into his locker as he sits on a stool. The object of this rookie nose guard's attention is, of course, the Steelers' playbook.<br><br> "Yeah, it's spinning," Calton said of a head that's buried in two hands. "This morning's been crazy - all these plays. They put so many plays in the first meeting."

That was the first day of spring workouts with the Steelers. Four weeks later, Calton, out of the now-defunct Division I-AA East Tennessee State University football program, is still studying, still worrying, but still in a great mood.

"I just love playing football," he said. "It's been my dream since I was a kid."

Perhaps Calton carried the ball when he was younger because nobody dreams of being a defensive lineman in a 3-4 scheme, do they?

"I do," he said. "This is what I love, just being around the guys, the atmosphere. I just love it."

Calton was a three-year starter at ETSU and a captain the last two years. After his senior season he was named to Don Hanson's first-team small-college All-America squad. Calton also played in the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic on Christmas Day, as had his ETSU/NFL predecessors Donnie Abraham and Cecil Moore. Calton also played in the Las Vegas All-American Classic.

The big guy runs the 40 in less than five seconds and was given a draftable grade by the Steelers, who passed over Calton in the seventh round and signed him as a free agent.

Calton can play nose tackle or defensive end in a 3-4 and is hoping to provide the Steelers with a cheaper alternative to fourth-year vet Chris Hoke.

Calton's position coach at ETSU is convinced he'll stick.

"Barring injury," ETSU line coach Darryl Bullock told the school's website, "I predict at least a five-to-seven year NFL career for Brandon. The NFL is going to get a steal with him on his first contract.

"If Brandon can not play in the NFL," Bullock continued, "I need to quit coaching. I need to get out of college coaching. He is a terrific football player."

Bullock played defensive line for Penn State's 1986 national championship team. He also coached San Diego Chargers center Jason Ball at the University of New Hampshire.

"I compare Brandon to Jason, but Brandon is a better athlete," Bullock said.

Calton reportedly ran a 4.8 40, according to the team's website, but that source also lists him as 6-feet-4. An up-close meeting with Calton, however, would make one wonder whether the Steelers stretched the truth by listing him at 6-2.

Calton is in the books as one of the strongest players ever at his college. In setting a team-record combined lift of 1,970 pounds, Calton squatted 735 and benched 475.

In the relevant statistics, Calton started the last 41 games and appeared in all 46 games in his four years at ETSU. A native of Pennington Gap, Va., Calton was fourth on the team with 75 tackles last season and second with 15.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He was named to the All-Southern Conference team for the second time.

"There weren't really many major highlights," he said of his college years. "In a 3-4, the lineman's always squeezing blocks for linebackers. Mostly, that's what we do."

Calton played all three line positions in college and is learning different techniques with the Steelers, but basically his mission is the same: Be the plow horse.

"I understand. These guys get no credit," he said. "That's what it was in college, squeeze blocks for linebackers. I don't care about the credit. I just love playing the game."

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