Running away with it all

Football: After a sophomore season he'd rather forget, Old Mill's Ryan Callahan is headed for a record-setting campaign.

High Schools

October 08, 2004|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Old Mill's Ryan Callahan is having the kind of season running backs dream about. Although he's only 5 feet 7, 150 pounds, the junior already has rushed for 1,145 yards and 19 touchdowns in five games. He's on pace to set Anne Arundel County season records for touchdowns, points and yards rushing.

The yards almost serve as a symbol of the distance he has traveled from last year's nightmarish events that cost his team eight victories.

Since ninth grade, Callahan, who alternated between living with his aunt, Sonya Thomas, and his mother, Sonya Gross, had listed his aunt's address in the Old Mill district on the permission form required for participation in county athletics. However, before last season's winter track season, he wrote down the Glen Burnie address of his mother. He was in violation of the county's residency rules, which require an athlete to live with a parent or a legal guardian and attend school in the same district.

Callahan was suspended from athletics for 60 days and ordered to attend Glen Burnie. The Old Mill football team had to forfeit its eight wins.

"I'm close to my teammates, and they handled it well," said Callahan. "There was no fussing or anything like that, and we've put it in the past."

After the ruling, the family hired an attorney and filed papers so that Thomas could become Callahan's legal guardian. The guardianship was changed, and Gross petitioned the Board of Education to allow her son to return to Old Mill.

After spending three months at Glen Burnie, Callahan received permission from the board to return to Old Mill.

"I was really happy when I was told I could go back to Old Mill because that's where my friends and teammates are," Callahan said.

Teammate Steve Holmes never let Callahan doubt the support he had from his friends.

When the bad news broke last December, Holmes approached Callahan and "gave him a big hug and told him, `I still love you.'

"He cares about everyone else more than he does himself," Holmes said.

Said Old Mill coach Mike Marcus: "He and Steve often sit and eat lunch with our Outreach [special education] kids. That's the kind of caring kid he is. Ryan is a pretty special kid on and off the football field."

Indeed, he surpassed 1,000 yards for the season in last week's 30-28 victory over Severna Park, helping the No. 10 Patriots improve to 5-0. Callahan gained 341 yards, 1 yard short of the county and school record, and scored four touchdowns.

Callahan is on a pace to break county season records for most touchdowns (32), most points (198) and most yards rushing (2,346) -- all by Eric Venerable of Annapolis in 2000.

"Most kids are not used to seeing a kid that fast," said Severna Park coach J.P. Hines. "He's really strong for his size, has extremely strong legs and is not scared to take a pop."

Although he is still small, Callahan has added more than 30 pounds since his freshman junior varsity season, when he scored 21 touchdowns. As a 133-pound sophomore on varsity, he had 17 touchdowns and 804 yards rushing, averaging more than 11 yards per carry.

"I work hard on my legs, which is where my power comes from, and on my upper body to get stronger," Callahan said. "I just run hard and am willing to run inside or outside."

Callahan also runs track, helping the Old Mill's boys win a state outdoor title last spring.

Marcus said he is convinced Callahan can play at the next level because of his speed, strength, instincts, field vision and determination.

"He runs really hard for his size and is always moving," said Northeast coach Mike Cotham, whose Eagles lost to the Patriots, 38-0, after Callahan rushed for 252 yards. "He doesn't give you a leg to latch on to."

Covering ground

Anne Arundel County's top single-game rushing performances:

Player, School Year Opponent TDs Yards

Brashaad Mayweather, Old Mill 2002 Arundel 5 342

Ryan Callahan, Old Mill 2004 Severna Park *3 341

Jason Lilly, St. Mary's 1994 Calvert Hall 5 340

Frank Brown, North County 1992 Chesapeake-AA **7 336

*-Callahan scored a fourth TD on a punt return; **-State record.

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