Earning His Way - Kirk Callahan

GO KNIGHTS Kirk Callahan has seen UCF's campus change considerably since his freshman year of college.
Kirk Callahan has seen UCF's campus change considerably since his freshman year of college.

Feb. 22, 2012

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By Brian Ormiston

Before UCF opens spring football March 13, UCFAthletics.com will focus on the Knights' new coaches who have joined the staff for the upcoming season. Today's feature takes a look at UCF alum and defensive backs coach Kirk Callahan.

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Fishing requires more than just dropping a durable line in the water. Traveling out to a heavenly location in search of a productive afternoon at the lake involves starting from scratch, acquiring the necessary tools such as a solid pole, lively bait, a sturdy net and of course flavorful snacks to fill the belly during the day. However, two of the key elements to a successful trip lie in the form of patience and a strong work ethic.

Routinely making escapades to the lakes in Research Park in search of energetic bass while a student-athlete at UCF, Kirk Callahan started from scratch himself and has since built a very respectable work ethic. His patience and determination to land a "big fish" paid off in February when he accepted the Knights' job as defensive backs coach.

"I've come from the very bottom, as in I was a walk-on at UCF, then a graduate assistant for many years," Callahan said. "As I like to say I'm very normal. So I pride myself on hard work and earning my way. So obviously being here is a big pay-off for that."

Callahan picked up football naturally, and it certainly helped that his father, Sean Callahan, who has been the head coach at Armwood since 1984, served as one of the most influential high school coaches in the area.

"I grew up as a coach's son, which was an exciting time for me because he was the head guy," Callahan reflected. "I basically spent every free minute of my time running around that high school back in the day, playing basketball with the older players and being a water boy during middle school. That really helped shape me into the person I am today.

"My fondest memory would be just spending time there and learning football. I'm not the smartest person, but for some reason I get football. It makes sense to me, and I said to myself, `Hey I'm not bad at this.' I would love those times at Armwood when I was with my father, talking ball with him and the assistant coaches and how I was able to grasp things fairly easily."

Moments rarely existed when football did not flow off the lips of any member of the Callahan family, who constantly took in Tampa Bay Buccaneers games each season. With his mom living the life as the wife of a football coach, his sister serving as a cheerleader and his brother also playing the sport they loved, Callahan recalls basing family vacations around visiting universities to check out the football facilities and stadiums.

Callahan does remember one adventure where his family actually left football in the rear-view mirror.

"The best family vacation was probably the Florida Keys. That was the one time where it wasn't football-related," Callahan said. "I was in high school and it was during my spring break. We went down and stayed at the Cheeca Lounge in Islamorada, and I enjoyed the fishing. That's the fishing capital of the world, so that was a fun experience."

Those exhilarating fishing outings would make their way to UCF and Research Park when Callahan joined the Knights as a defensive back from 2003-06.

"I was recruited by Alan Gooch, and he brought me here as a preferred walk-on," Callahan said. "It was a great opportunity for me, and I thought it was further enough away from home, but yet close enough if I did have a desire to go home. I just fell in love with the campus and the fact that this place was growing made it special. But I didn't realize it was going to be as big as it is today. I knew it was going in the right direction but not to this capacity and not this quickly.

"When I first got here as a student, the area by the football building was all pine trees, and when we came over here during high school for the team camps, we just saw massive fields surrounded by pine trees. It's unbelievable now."

Although labeled as a walk-on, Callahan ultimately earned playing time in eight games during his career. Yet his passion for coaching manifested on the playing field as he always helped teammates learn the defense and be in the right position on every play.

Being able to understand playbooks and pick up on defensive schemes as a child, Callahan also loved witnessing his father's former players enjoy successful lives after high school. When he suited up for the Black and Gold, this also was a driving force behind his desire to get into coaching.

"The biggest thing that I liked seeing was when kids graduated and moved on, they came back and were really thankful to my father," Callahan said. "That really helped me want to get into coaching because I like the art of helping people throughout their lives."

As a senior at UCF in 2007, Callahan secured a teaching internship at Timber Creek High School, so he stayed with the Knights as a student assistant, diligently learning everything he possibly could to expand his brain.

"Ryan Silverfield who was a graduate assistant at the time and is now the assistant offensive line coach with the Minnesota Vikings, was the one who kind of taught me how to be a GA," Callahan said. "At that time I was doing all the basic stuff like film breakdowns. I was basically a support for the GA, and it was great. That was the year we won the conference title and we almost beat Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. I played on the first bowl team here when we went to Hawaii and that was probably the second-best memory I have of playing here as well."

After stints on coaching staffs at Florida and North Carolina, Callahan is currently embracing his second go-around with the Knights. And sometimes all it takes for him to crack a wiry smile is to cruise past an old apartment from his days as a student, or think about eventful nights at the bowling alley.

"It's always funny when I drive by the apartments I lived in," Callahan said with a grin. "I lived at Boardwalk, Chatham Landing, which is now Waterford Landings right there by Bubbalou's, and I eventually ended up at Polos East, which is off of Woodbury. And one of my fondest memories is going over to Boardwalk Bowl on Colonial all the time.

"Coming back to UCF, I still know the training staff from when I was here, as well as the equipment staff and some of the coaches. There was a major comfort level for me to come back, and it makes it easy because I can tell these players that I have been in their shoes. And I have gone through the same experiences as them at UCF."

Comfortable not only in Orlando, Callahan thoroughly enjoys representing the Knights in the Tampa area.

"We went down to the Glazier Clinic in Tampa and I met up with a lot of the high school coaches," Callahan said. "When I was growing up, we had a family condo on Indian Rocks Beach, and all of those coaches would be at that beach as well on holidays. They all knew I had taken the job at UCF, so for me to walk in to that clinic with a UCF shirt on was a great experience.

"I love being able to recruit the city of Tampa because of all the people I still know there. I also think I can relate to so many different types of people, and you can put me into any situation and I can always be down to earth."

If Callahan does get a short break away from football, there is one thing he hopes to bring back into his life now that he has returned to his home state.

"I don't get to go fishing very often now, so since I am closer to home I would like to go out more. One of my good friends has a pretty nice boat on the Gulf side, and whenever I get free time I'm always bugging him to take me out."



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