Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun had high praise for his 2007 squad at the team’s banquet, held Friday night at The Broadmoor.
Calhoun noted that he played for a baseball team that reached the Little League World Series and an academy team that was ranked No. 5 in the country and that he was on the coaching staff of a Denver Broncos team that went 14-2 in the regular season and played in the AFC Championship game.
But, he said, “I’ve never been part of a group that came as close to maxing out their physical ability than this team.”
Calhoun had praise for each senior who was introduced (see below), including Drew Fowler and Garrett Rybak, who shared the prestigious Brian Bullard Memorial Award (Given to the player who displays the qualities that typified the late Bullard – unselfishness, 110 percent effort, total team commitment and pride in his role on the team whether he’s a starter or not).
Players vote on the Bullard Award. Calhoun said there were about seven players who received six or more votes.
“It’s one of those years you almost could have given it to the whole class,” Calhoun said. “But the two that were chosen were absolutely tremendous selections.”
But while Friday night was all about celebrating the Falcons’ remarkable 2007 season and the standout senior class that helped make it possible, Calhoun also had some thoughts on what many expect to be a down year in 2008.
“Initially, you may have some concerns about this year,” Calhoun told the crowd at the banquet. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to be fine in 2008. ... We’re going to be tough, we’re going to be talented and we’re going to win because we have academy kids.”
Here are some excerpts of what Calhoun said about the players who made up the Class of 2008:
-CB Carson Bird: “Just a remarkable season.”
-QB Shaun Carney: “If there’s one word that sticks out about this kid, it’s ‘leader.’’ ... A guy that’s a winner and a guy that you absolutely want to be the quarterback of your football team.”
-DE Josh Clayton: Provided “great, great leadership” for a defensive front that excelled.
-TE Chris Evans: “’Tremendous attitude and a strong contributor on special teams.”’
-LB Drew Fowler: “You’re around Drew Fowler for a while and right away you find out he’s genuine right until he hits the football field and you find out he wants to put a dent in your nose.”
-S Bobby Giannini: “The last six games of this season, he played as well as any defensive back in the conference. ... A class act and a great young man.”
-C Blaine Guenther: “This guy’s a football player. ... He’s every bit deserving of first-team all-conference.”
-RB/WR Chad Hall: “He always makes sure that if any praise comes his way, he deflects it to the Air Force Academy and his teammates.” Calhoun also described his effort in making two blocks on Jim Ollis’ 71-yard run against TCU: “To me, that’s Chad Hall.”
-WR Devin Hart: “We always talk about complete people, this is a quality leader within the cadet wing.”
-T Dan Holder: “He’s one of those guys you just naturally gravitate towards.”
-LB Julian Madrid: “This is a guy that right away you can tell these guys love having him as a teammate.” He said Madrid “defied any kind of logic” by coming back from his knee injury.
-TB Kip McCarthy: “He’s a guy that his teammates knew was totally dependable.”
-WR Mike Moffett: “He played both Z and X receiver, and he was smart enough and tough enough and dedicated enough that there was no problem at all.”
-T Chris Monson: “He probably made as much improvement as anyone on our football team.”
-T Caleb Morris: “What comes to mind right away is the kind of heart Caleb has.”
-LS Tony Norman: “Not only was he an excellent long-snapper, but any time he was involved in coverage he excelled.”
-TB Jim Ollis: “Perseverance. That’s all there is to it when you talk about Jimmy Ollis. ... The last three games he played as well as any tailback in the country.”
-FB Scott Peeples: “He’s got a quick wit, and he makes you laugh. ... Scott filled a variety of roles.”
-LB John Rabold: “Outside of the bow tie (which Rabold wore to the banquet), I love this guy. Just had a phenomenal season.” When it comes to statistics, Rabold had “hands down the biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball in the conference.”
-LB Austin Randle: “He’s one of those guys that always has a smile on his face until he gets on the football field, which you love.”
-WR Mark Root: “Excellent blocker, caught the ball well, ran excellent routes, smart, tough and another classy kid.”
-CB Garrett Rybak: “He’s a guy you’re exceptionally proud of.”
-LB Aaron Shanor: “One of those guys that really found his stride the last eight games of the season.”
-TB Chad Smith: “Just a tough kid, I don’t know any other way to put it.”
-CB Nathan Smith: “A guy who played a bunch on special teams and always was ready to step in” at cornerback.
-FB Ryan Williams: “No way I could brag about this guy’s toughness too much. ... A great, great football player, and an even tougher kid.”
-Seniors Carney and Fowler will coach at the academy next year. Guenther and Hall – and perhaps Bird – will coach at the prep school.
-During his remarks, academy superintendent Lt Gen John F. Regni noted the deal signed earlier that day by The mtn. and DirecTV. It elicited cheers and applause from the audience. “This is huge for us,” Regni said. “From a recruiting standpoint, it’s big.”
-Calhoun on new assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Matt Wallerstedt, who Calhoun hired to replace the departed Brian Knorr. “He was raised in an Air Force family. His dad was a fighter pilot. His dad flew F-4s. ... A guy that was a tremendous football player. ... He’ll do a great job. We were lucky as can be to get him.”