Francis Kallon Sr is beginning to like this American football.
His son, a linebacker and defensive end at Central Gwinnett High in Lawrenceville, is big news in the world of college football recruiting, something that his father – a native of the western African nation of Sierra Leone – nor anyone imagined a year ago.
Francis Kallon Jr. is a 6-foot-6, 260-pound linebacker and defensive end with some 15 scholarship offers, from Georgia Tech to Southern Cal.
And Kallon Jr. had never played in a real football game until last month.
‘’Sometimes it’s like, ‘wow!’ ‘’ Kallon Sr. said Friday as he watched his son play against Brookwood, the defending Class AAAAA champions. “It’s like a miracle. We don’t know what to do but praise God.’’
Central lost 56-14, but Kallon Sr. hasn’t learned the agony of defeat from this foreign sport. His son is going to Georgia Tech. It is good.
Just two years ago, Kallon Sr. was an ocean apart from his estranged wife and youngest son. He and his wife, Rose, reconciled, but the son wasn’t so keen on coming to Georgia. Francis Kallon Jr. was living in London, a British citizen looking forward to a year of prep school, then college to study science.
But Kallon Jr. came, and the rest is college recruiting lore.
Kallon Jr. was the captain of his high school basketball team in London, and he played that sport at Central as a junior. Football coach Todd Wofford had heard of Kallon, not met him, when he tracked him down last spring.
Spring football practice is a time when college coaches make visits to see top prospects such as Central’s George Morris, a running back who has a bunch of Big Ten schools after him, and Trey Johnson, a junior linebacker who has committed to Auburn.
It was hard for coaches to miss the new kid with the size and strength of a power forward and agility of a soccer player. He had over 10 offers before playing his first game. His academic background helped lure offers from high-end academic schools such as Duke, Purdue, Stanford and Vanderbilt. His grade-point average is 3.6.
His real-game performances have been remarkable. Kallon Jr. had 10 tackles his first game, four behind the line of scrimmage. In his first four games, he had 37 tackles with five sacks. He’d blocked three kicks.
At first, his parents wanted no part of football. They worried he’d get hurt, and education came first.
Kallon Sr. was a pretty good athlete in his day. He was a track and field sprinter, but it was volleyball that earned him a scholarship to Tashkent University in the former Soviet Union, where he studied agronomy and earned a master’s degree.
His wife has a degree in nursing from King’s College University in London.
Sure that he’d win, the father made a deal with his son last spring.
“We said no. He said why,’’ Kallon Sr. said. “We said that will take you from focusing on academics. You’ll come home too tired to study. Then I said, ‘Well, you’re desperate to play, OK. I’ll give you an ultimatum.’ ’’
Kallon Jr.’s parents (Rose was unable to attend Friday’s game) said they’d let him play football if he brought home straight A’s and made over 1200 on his first try on the SAT. He nailed straight A’s and made a 1530 on his SAT.
‘’He’s not the type of son to give me headaches,’’ Kallon Sr. said. “We try to support him. He really loves football. At first, I had some reservations. Now, I like the sport. The more I understand, the more interested I am.’’