Napoleon McCallum was one of the greatest football players in Naval Academy history. He holds the academy’s all-time rushing record, was twice an All-American selection, twice led the nation in all-purpose yardage, made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1985 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
But to most football fans, the enduring memory of McCallum is the severe leg injury he suffered on Monday Night Football in September 1994. McCallum, while getting tackled by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ken Norton Jr., sustained a dislocated kneecap, three torn ligaments, had his calf muscle and hamstring torn from the bone, and suffered nerve and artery damage. The injury ended McCallum’s career and could have possibly cost him his leg.
In today’s Los Angeles Times, writer Jerry Crowe catches up with the former Navy star. McCallum recalls his unusual career — which was interrupted by full-time naval service after he had been permitted to serve and play his rookie season — and the horrific injury that ended his career just as it appeared to be gaining momentum.
One of the more interesting quotes from the article was from one of McCallum’s doctors, who drove home to the running back how severe his injury was:
“When the doctor came in,” he recalls, “my first question was, ‘How long before I get back out on the field?’ “
How about never?
“He’s like, ‘We don’t see injuries like this except in car accidents,’ ” McCallum says.
Beyond details about the injury itself, the article gives great insight into the mentality that McCallum had in dealing with it, and how it still affects his life.
Here’s a YouTube video of McCallum’s injury. It’s brutal, so don’t watch if you can’t stomach seeing a man’s leg get bent in ways it shouldn’t be bent.