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Panther signs to become a Wildcat
Byron Calahan signs on to become a Bethel College Wildcat. His mother Meleshia and father Felipe were on hand to lend support. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier


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“It’s always been a dream of mine to play college football,” a smiling Liberty County Panther Byron Calahan said. “I’ve been working hard in the weight room, in the classroom and all that work finally paid off.”
Calahan, the youngest son of Felipe and Meleshia Calahan, signed on the bottom line to become a Bethel College Wildcat Thursday morning.
That means the youngest of three boys will be leaving the nest over the summer and heading to McKenzie, Tenn.
“It’s extremely hard, but I have to let him fly,” his mother said. “During football season we will pretty much live in McKenzie.”
Calahan had a standout season for the Panther football team and, as a running back, got close to 700 rushing yards. He scored 10 touchdowns before Panther coach Kirk Warner moved him to the defense.
“We tried to play him a little bit more defensively because that is where he will probably play in college,” Warner said. “He was invaluable to our team.
“It’s a big step for our program. You start with one and hopefully they will start rolling in after this year. We are real proud of Byron. He has and will represent the school really well.”
Calahan will have his work cut out for him as he joins the Wildcats roster. The Bethel Wildcats were the 2007 Mid-South Conference football champs and their offensive coordinator Shaun Gaines said Calahan would hit the practice field as soon as he reports in August.
“Byron has great athleticism for a kid of his size,” Gaines said. “He is going to give us the ability to move him in different positions and is a very versatile player. Right now we are looking at him more on the defensive line. The fact that he plays football and baseball goes to show you just how versatile he is and exactly how athletic he is.” Gaines said he thought Calahan would play his first year.
“We are looking for him to come in and contribute in some way next year on the field. “
Calahan said he was ready.
“I’ve been working real hard for it and I’m glad it happened,” he said. “I thank God first of all. To be able to got to college and play football and also have the chance to play baseball, it’s a pretty good deal.”
He said the decision to sign was easy.
“The coaches were real honest and nice,” he said. “The people seemed real happy up there and everything was well planned out and well organized and I just liked it a lot.”
Calahan said high school sports prepared him for the next level and he was thankful of the support he has received from his friends and family. His family and friends, including 5-year-old Julian Sutphin, Calahan’s number one fan, were on hand to watch him sign the scholarship.
“It’s a great accomplishment for him,” Calahan’s father said. “It affords him the opportunity to go to a school of higher learning and get his education and at the same time he can play football which he loves to do. We are just excited. I always told him he had a gift.  He always played with the older kids and always played well. I often told him he played four years above the average kid. It’s pretty much a gift.”
When asked whether he wanted his son to go all the way to the NFL, Felipe Calahan said, “NFL? It’s a dream but a lot of things have to happen. First he needs to finish school and play hard and then if the opportunity arrives we will see how it goes.”
In addition to playing football and baseball, Calahan will complete his studies in computer science.

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