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Jenni Carlson: OU receiver Brandon Caleb determined to catch on

by Jenni Carlson Published: September 21, 2009
NORMAN — Brandon Caleb had only one thought as he streaked down the sideline, football in hand, end zone in sight.

Don’t get caught from behind.

The Oklahoma wide receiver made sure of that with not one, but two stiff arms. He held off that Tulsa tackler. He did what had to be done.

On a day that others bobbled passes and dropped touchdowns, Caleb staked a claim to the Sooners’ No. 2 receiver spot. His five-catch, 104-yard performance was highlighted by a pair of touchdowns, including the stiff-arming, 63-yarder.

Only a week after having his own struggles, Caleb did more than redeem himself. He also provided a glimpse into why he has emerged.

"I just want to play hard and show the coaches that I can go out there and make plays,” Caleb said after OU throttled Tulsa, 45-0.

Such determination has always driven him.

A native of Richmond, Va., Caleb became a well-known athlete in the area before he was even in middle high. He was starring on the summer basketball circuit. He was posting some of the nation’s best times and distances in track.

The big local newspaper featured him when he was only 12.

Caleb was on his way to becoming the next big thing at Mills Godwin High, an area school with a rich athletic history. He was talented and outgoing and well-known.

But when his mother started seeing more B’s and C’s on his report card, she began to worry.

"My concern was, he’s a great athlete, I’m a single-parent divorcee,” Lee Simms said via telephone. "I wanted him to stay focused.”

Then one day, Caleb and his mom bumped into a friend who told them about the military school that his son had attended. He raved about the change that it had made in only one year.

Simms didn’t think much about the conversation after that.

Caleb did.

He went online and investigated Fork Union Military Academy. The century-old boarding school is about 50 miles from Richmond, and it has high academic standards and outstanding athletic tradition. Eddie George and Vinny Testaverde are among Fork Union’s alumni.

"Mom,” Caleb said, "can you take me there for a visit?”

Simms balked.

"He doesn’t know what he’s asking for,” she thought.

Going to military school? Moving away from home? Her son?

But he kept asking his mom about going. He bugged her. He pestered her.

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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