CEDAR RAPIDS — James Calhoun had given up on football.
Seven years ago, a much-too brief college football stint at Division-I New Mexico State returned the Cedar Rapids Titans defensive back to his native California where he believed his post-football life would begin.
But after a couple of years of watching his nephew play high school football, a call from a former Riverside City College teammate prompted a tryout with a local semipro team.
“Once I put the helmet and shoulder pads back on, I just fell back in love with it,” said Calhoun, who will help the Titans face defending Indoor Football League champion Arizona Saturday at 7:05 at the U.S. Cellular Center. “I’m back. I’m playing again.”
Calhoun, 28, rediscovered his love of the game and enjoyed much success as a receiver with the semipro SoCal Coyotes. When a SoCal teammate earned an opportunity with the now-defunct Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the Indoor Football League last season, he shared Calhoun’s film.
Shortly after joining Salt Lake, Calhoun was pressed into duty at defensive back.
“I don’t know if I can tackle still,” Calhoun recalled thinking with a laugh. “They just threw me in. … It just came back. The team, they helped me. … By the time everything came together, I was already in full stride.”
Calhoun was a first team all-IFL selection for Salt Lake last season as he led the league with nine interceptions and established IFL records with five interceptions returned for touchdowns and 262 interception return yards. This season, he leads Cedar Rapids with 51 tackles and returned a fumble for a score last week.
After starting a few games at cornerback, Calhoun is back to playing more of a roving safety position in order to take advantage of his playmaking skills.
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“It’s big for my comfort level,” Calhoun said. “I don’t really have to think as much. It just comes natural to me. When I’m at rover, I can help the team way more at rover because I am closer to the ball. I can read faster.”
Saturday will be the first home game for Cedar Rapids (1-7) since March 24. The Titans led for all but two seconds of an 84-83 loss at Arizona (7-1) last Saturday in which they allowed an IFL-record 11 rushing touchdowns to Arizona tailback Darrell Monroe.
“The guys performed,” Cedar Rapids Coach Marvin Jones said. “Back and forth game, obviously. But coming into this thing for me, if we can just cut down the rushing and get on this running back, we made a few additions that I think will help us. I feel damn good about this game, actually.”
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