Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) writes a profile of a fascinating talent who suffered the prototypical fall from grace between preps and college. Callahan Bright is a defensive tackle who, on National Signing Day of 2005, ranked #14 overall and #2 at defensive tackle in the Rivals.com Rankings. Ndamukong Suh ranked #51 in those same rankings.
He was a 6-foot-2, 315-pound blocker-destroying beast who also happened to be fast enough to play attack on his school’s lacrosse team. He was among the first invited to play in the 2005 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “He’s built like a bulldog — low to the ground,” said Rivals analyst Mike Farrell, who covered Bright in high school and prep school. “He was so powerful. He always had great leverage and got under taller players, and he had one of the best bull rushes I’ve ever seen.”
But after declaring for FSU, he couldn’t manage to qualify academically, and once falling off track, fell through the proverbial cracks. Low-paying work? Check. Bouncing from school to school? Check. Criminal arrest and jail time? Check. He now plays for little-known Shaw University.
The story, fully told, is of a player that seems almost too perfect to become a Spagnuolo project — a still-raw but ferocious talent who is dedicating himself to what may be his last chance to fulfill an NFL dream.
In a story soon to be published, John and Ian from The Steelers n’at asked me about the Rams’ needs from this draft. Among other things, and even after drafting Suh first overall, I mentioned the need to get a “project” player for Spagnuolo on the defensive line. A guy who can become the signature player for the Rams’ focus on player development, a gem hidden under layers of coal that only Spags knows how to crack.
This isn’t the first time he’s shown up on the radar. Back in 2008, Tom Marino of Scout.com tentatively rated Bright ahead of the guys pegged to go first round in that year’s draft: Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis.
Based on his preseason workouts, one respected pro scout has already called him the most dominant inside defender he has seen in the last decade of scouting. It is unlikely that Bright will challenge the NFL eligibility rule in 2008 (he is still very raw, has been away from the game for two full seasons and needs to improve hand use significantly), but if and when he does, he has the ability to become a top professional for a very long time.
— Scout.com: “2008 NFL Draft Rankings“
The biggest thing separating him from his ability is the fact that he never had the advantage of working in the NFL factory known as the Big College School. He’s hoping to make up for years of lost time at All Star Sports in central Florida.
As of last Friday, Bright had shed 16 pounds. All-Star owner Steve DeLuca and his staff are working to set up workouts for NFL scouts. By the time those roll around, Robinett hopes to have Bright closer to 320, and he expects Bright to be closer to 40 reps on the bench press.
While Robinett handles the measurables, Andy Cox handles the football-specific skills. Cox, a former assistant at Central Florida, the XFL and Canadian Football League, is trying to squeeze five years of coaching — hand placement, pass-rushing moves, reading offensive linemen — into a few months. “This kid has a shot,” Cox said. “But he’s never been coached.”
As active as the Rams have been with undrafted players, scouring other teams’ practice squads for untapped talents, and as committed as they have been to developing these recruits into actual football players, the Rams could be a perfect home for Bright.