Jermie Calhoun article from a Dallas paper

Small-town RB is big-time talent

State’s top recruit finds peace and perspective growing up in a little East Texas town

VAN, Texas – Jermie Calhoun admits adjusting to small-town life was tough.

Then he started eating wild hog, fishing and riding horses. He began to enjoy the quiet of Van, population 2,362. Perspective changed for a young man who’d spent most of his childhood in Tyler, which compared to Van is like New York City.

“Now it’s cool,” Calhoun said. “I guess I am a country boy.”That serenity helps Calhoun cope with the attention that comes with being a star running back from East Texas, which produced Earl Campbell and Adrian Peterson.

At 6-0, 210 pounds, with sprinter’s speed and 4,234 yards in three seasons, Calhoun is ranked 10th on the Rivals100 national recruiting list and is the top player in Texas. He committed to Oklahoma on March 10, spurning Florida, LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M, among others.

When he’s alone in this quiet town known for its oil and for the Sky Ranch camp, Calhoun reflects.

“I think about what I want to do with my life,” Calhoun said. “I have a chance to make it, to be the first one in my family to go to college.

“And I think about hard times with my family.”

Early moves

Annett Calhoun was 12 when she gave birth to Jermie in Tyler. Jermie’s father, Annett said, was about 20. Mother and son lived with Annett’s mother, Ernestine Buchanan, while Annett attended one hour of school a day.

Annett was a standout in volleyball, basketball and track but was unable to play at Tyler John Tyler because she had a child.

When he was 5, Jermie and his mother moved to Killeen to live with Annett’s sister, LaTaucha McKiver. They returned to Tyler when Jermie was 8.

Jermie thought Annett was his sister. During a family conversation around that time, he learned the truth.

“This is your mom,” Buchanan told him, “not your sister.”

Jermie’s reaction?

“He freaked out,” Annett said.

“It was funny, but it wasn’t,” Jermie says today about being raised by a teenage mother. “She was always there for me. She’s a hard-working mom.”

Jermie was entering the fifth grade when Annett married Stephen McClendon, who was living in Ben Wheeler, a community nine miles south of Van that was a roaring oil town until a fire destroyed most of it in the late 1920s.

Jermie and Annett moved to Ben Wheeler, which is part of the Van school district.

“It was hard at first,” Jermie said. “Van is basically an all-white school. I didn’t get along with the kids. But after elementary school I got comfortable with Van.”

Van had better academic programs for Jermie, who has dyslexia. He became more focused in school, Annett said.

“Van turned out to be a blessing for us,” she said.

Annett graduated from John Tyler after taking most of her classes at the East Texas Training Institute, a school for pregnant women. She and McClendon have separated. Jermie says McClendon is like a best friend to him.

Annett lives in Tyler, about 30 miles southeast of Van. Jermie divides his time between her home, McClendon’s, and the family of his friend, Peyton Neal, in Van. His girlfriend lives in Tyler.

In Van, there is a church on every block and three-quarter-pound cheeseburgers at The Dinner Bell on Main Street. Jermie says living in Van keeps him from gangs and trouble in Tyler.

“Van is what he’s grown up in,” said Blake Pennington, Van’s football coach. “He’s a country boy. That’s what he knows.”

That, and how to run with the football.

Making an impact

In seventh grade, Neal learned the hard way that Calhoun was a force on the football field.

The 5-5, 100-pound Neal was looking for an opponent to block when he heard, “Move!”

“Jermie goes, ‘Boom!’ and runs over me,” Neal said. “I didn’t think I wanted to play ever again. I had this big, blue bruise on my chin. Then I look up, and Jermie’s in the end zone. He had gone 80 yards.”

At 140 pounds in those days, Calhoun was so intimidating most players moved out of the way and grabbed for his jersey.

“If he touched the ball,” Pennington said, “he scored.”

Calhoun cried after one of his first high school practices because he wasn’t used to the contact. In a preseason scrimmage, he didn’t know where to run. But on the eighth play, he scored a 70-yard touchdown.

“I was tuned in after that,” he said.

As a freshman safety for a 1-9 Van team, Calhoun showed what Pennington considered leadership. With Wills Point driving, Calhoun screamed at his teammates.

“Get off the field if you don’t want to be out here!” he yelled.

Pennington said, “My first thought was, ‘Shut up!’ I didn’t think the older kids would listen. But that day he became a leader.”

Calhoun shared the tailback position the next two seasons with Jarvis Crawford, who had a chance to play football at Rice but turned it down to pursue other academic options. Calhoun put up huge numbers when given the opportunity, which brought college recruiters in droves to Van, a Class 3A school.

When Crawford sat out a game with an injury, Calhoun had 359 yards on 38 carries against Gladewater as a sophomore. In 2006, he had 220 yards on 10 carries in a half against Crandall.

His own man

Adrian Peterson signed with Oklahoma in 2004 out of Palestine, a Class 3A school about 70 miles south of Van. The Minnesota Vikings chose him in the first round of the NFL draft in April.

Calhoun met Peterson on a recruiting visit to Oklahoma. Calhoun said he felt tiny next to Peterson.

“He’s a beast,” Calhoun said. “He makes me look bad. I saw muscles I never knew we had on our bodies.”

Calhoun said he doesn’t want OU fans to expect another Peterson. Calhoun said he’s more of a finesse runner, while Peterson attacks.

“You can’t compare someone to another man,” he said.

Going into his junior season, Calhoun never thought he’d be the No. 1 running back in the state. When Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops visited Van High School, “It kind of hit me hard,” Calhoun said.

The school for which Calhoun grew up wanting to play – Texas – didn’t offer a scholarship because of academic concerns, Pennington said.

Calhoun has a 3.4 grade point average but did not meet the NCAA qualifying score on his first attempt at the ACT. He retook the test in June and is awaiting the result. He said he can handle college classes and vows to play four years in college even if the NFL becomes an option after his junior season.

Family on his mind

Annett works as a patient care associate at Mother Frances Hospital and has another job at Pine Crest Nursing Center, both in Tyler. Calhoun worries she works too much. He tries to be a big brother to his 15-year-old sister, Yolundria, who is pregnant.

“It’s weird I’m about to be an uncle,” he said.

He thinks about the father he met once. He said he believes his dad lives in Houston.

Annett predicts Jermie’s father will see Calhoun on TV someday and want a relationship with him. Calhoun said that would be OK.

“I use that as motivation,” Calhoun said. “I know he isn’t around. I wish he would come around. It would make my day.”

For now, the small-town life of Van makes his days.

He works at Sky Ranch as a waiter during summer camp.

He attends Friday morning breakfasts with his teammates at churches around Van.

During the season, he takes bus trips after Friday pep rallies to the elementary school, where each player is assigned to a classroom to mentor students.

Yes, being a country boy is a good thing.

“It’s a good town,” Calhoun said. “They show me a lot of respect. They show all the football players a lot of respect.

“We are all real close.”


Age: 18

High school, class: Van, Sr.

Hometown: Ben Wheeler, Texas

College commitment: Oklahoma. Oral commitments are nonbinding. The first day a recruit can sign a national letter of intent is Feb. 6, 2008.

Scouting report: Like Adrian Peterson, a 2004 Oklahoma signee from East Texas, Calhoun has good moves. “One cut, and they are both gone,” recruiting expert Jeremy Crabtree said. Calhoun also has good hands.


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Thirteen Texans are on the Rivals100 national recruiting list:
Rk. Name Pos. High school College commitment

10 Jermie Calhoun RB Van Oklahoma
13 R.J. Washington DE Keller Fossil Ridge Oklahoma
21 Chancey Aghayere DE Garland Undecided
24 Stephen Good OL Paris Oklahoma
36 D.J. Monroe DB Angleton Texas
54 Darryl Stonum WR Sugar Land Dulles Michigan
59 Andrew Luck QB Houston Stratford Stanford
60 Jeff Fuller WR McKinney Boyd Undecided
73 DeSean Hales WR Klein Oak Texas
75 Aaron Williams DB Round Rock McNeil Texas
80 Jarvis Humphrey DT Cedar Hill Texas
81 Dan Buckner WR Allen Texas
85 J.B. Shugarts OL Klein Ohio State