LUMBERTON — While Tyreik McCallum’s coaches told a packed classroom about how great of a player he was and how proud they were he was taking the next step to play college football, the Lumberton senior was holding back tears on Tuesday hunched over in his chair.
McCallum signed his letter of intent to play football at Independence Community College in Kansas in front of a room full of classmates, family and teachers holding their phones up to capture the moment. The closeness he had grown with those people in the room was what brought on the emotion.
“It’s just the thought that I won’t be here next year,” he said of what led to the surge in emotions. “I brought so much intensity to the team and they probably won’t have another me.”
A three-sport athlete for the Pirates, McCallum joins Red Springs’ Eric “Buddy” Graham as the second signee to Independence from Robeson County. The pair are two of Robeson County’s most athletic football players, and will be surrounded by talent players that originally signed or committed to play Division I football and are using the program as a stop to get to the top tier of college football.
“Me and Buddy have a good relationship. I was talking to him Saturday and he said we’re going to have a good time up there. It makes it a lot easier knowing I have someone to talk to,” he said. “I feel like I can make big things happen at this program and then go to a Division I program and be even better.”
McCallum was a major part of all three aspects and an explosive athlete for the Pirates this season. He was the team’s leading receiver with 712 yards and seven touchdowns, had three interceptions as a defensive back and returned four kickoffs for touchdowns.
That big play ability is something that coach Mike Setzer believes will set him apart at the next level as he takes on the role of being a full-time wide out for the team.
“We know that with him going there the door is open even wider for him and the opportunity to play major college football,” he said. “They’re getting a play-maker. It’s almost like shooting dice with him. The more you shoot, the more lucky you get. The more times you put the ball in his hands, it might not be right now or the next play, but you know the probability is he’s about to get a big play.”
His inspiration to get noticed by colleges came after Lumberton went up to team camp at Appalachian State. On the trip, quarterback Braylan Grice was offered a scholarship and McCallum wasn’t — much to his displeasure. After meeting with offensive coordinator Eric Murphy, he came back determined.
“I took what Coach Murph said to the heart that I didn’t get no offer from there, which I wanted to get one. Now I get an even better opportunity for going out there,” McCallum said. “From a sophomore getting an offer and a senior not getting an offer, it made me push even harder.”
Independence Community College will be the subject this fall in the popular Netflix series “Last Chance U.” After filming the first two seasons at East Mississippi Community College, the series will look into the Independence program that has the same reputation of getting Division I talent academically and physically ready to play at the next level.
“The defensive coordinator called me on the phone and said they would be filming Last Chance U,” McCallum said.
While a lot of eyes from college football teams will be watching the program looking for potential transfers, having the film crew there is just another thing that McCallum looks to embrace on the field.
“I love the cameras,” he said.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.