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Prior to Valdosta State’s first scrimmage of the pre-season on Aug. 15, Russ Callaway’s name sat at the top of the quarterback depth chart.

Callaway takes on new role

 Prior to Valdosta State’s first scrimmage of the pre-season on Aug. 15, Russ Callaway’s name sat at the top of the quarterback depth chart.
 By the end of the day, Callaway was being carried off the field and being examined for a right knee injury, which was later diagnosed as a torn ACL.
 The news of a torn ACL was nothing new to Callaway. During the 2009 spring practice, Callaway went down with a torn ACL in the same knee. Callaway fought back and failed to miss any game time last season as he backed up senior Kellen Lewis.

Senior Russ Callaway is seen here throwing during pre-game of VSU's opening game. Callaway tore his ACL during the Blazers pre-game. Photo By Jessica Green/THE SPECTATOR
 However, this time Callaway received news that this injury would spoil his senior year and end his collegiate playing career.
 “At the time it was pretty similar to how it felt last time. So obviously, I was thinking ‘Oh, I hope it’s not the same thing.’ It ended up being that,” Callaway said.
 Although Callaway is not able to play for the famed red and black in 2010, he has earned the respect of VSU head coach David Dean, who recognizes the importance of Callaway to the VSU football program.
 “Well, he means a lot. There are a lot of guys here from a standpoint of leadership and respectability; he brings that to the table in a lot of ways,” Dean said. “All of these guys have known Russ because he’s been in this program for five years, so everybody here knows him. A lot of guys came in with him, they respect him, they trust him, they know he’s a great leader, they know he’s a great player, and they are disappointed for him. And they want to play hard for him.”
 The five-foot-10 inch fifth year senior from Athens, Ga. played in 31 games for the Blazers—as he was also a part of the Blazers 2007 national championship team.
 Despite being injured and unable to move around easily, Callaway’s role with the team is crucial, as Dean had decided to make him a student-coach for the current season.
 “He’s going to be a coach; he’s going to be a great coach. So, you make the best of a situation that was very tough with him not being able to play,” Dean said. “Now, he’s going to get some experience coaching, but the other thing is, he’s going to be around his teammates who respect him a great deal.”
 As a student-coach, Callaway will assist quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Robby Brown with the development of the young quarterbacks that fill the VSU depth chart, which includes redshirt freshman starter Brett Whitmire.
 Callaway will sit in the coach’s box for the first few games while he recovers from knee surgery—which he had on Sept. 1. As for when his knee is in good enough shape for the sidelines, Dean believes that Callaway can be an asset for his young quarterbacks while on the field level.
  “He’ll be huge for us as far as helping our quarterbacks,” Dean said. “When you’ve had a guy that’s been in the system for five years and then you’ve got two quarterbacks that really are just in their second year, he’s a great calming factor for them. When they come off the field, once he’s able to get down on the field and be with those guys and look them in the eye and talk with them, what he sees from the sideline and what he can relay to them, we may not be able to do as coaches and that’s going to be invaluable to us, just from the standpoint of having a quarterback that knows our system to help those guys every single game and every single play.”
 And given his experience, Callaway has plenty of advice to give regarding how to handle the quarterback position at Valdosta State.
  “There’s kinda some tricks to the trade that guys coming in won’t know until you’ve played in it for a few years and just hearing it from somebody who’s done it, they can kinda get a better feel for it,” Callaway said. “I’m going to coach. I was planning on coaching either way. I’m kinda just getting a head start on it, I guess.”
 As Callaway enters the coaching ranks, he will not have to look far for advice because his father, Neil Callaway, is currently the head football coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Callaway’s father brings over 30 years of experience to the table as a player and a coach.
 “Obviously he’s coached for 30 some-odd years and he’s had a few players get injured and when he was a player, he was injured himself. So you know, he kinda just passes along words of encouragement like ‘You know, it could always be worse.’ Some guys don’t ever even get to set foot on a college field,” Callaway said. “At least I got to play a little bit. Stuff like that he just kind of reminds me of and it’s kind of good of him to lift my spirits up.”
 After the season, Callaway plans on marrying his longtime girlfriend, Taylor Samuel, a recent graduate of VSU. He then plans on landing a coaching spot.

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