“Not everybody can play in that league. I was blessed to even be drafted, with my past. But if I was to get another chance [in the NFL], I’ll take advantage of it.”Tampa Bay Vipers Wide Receiver Antonio Callaway
Antonio Callaway would be the first person to tell you he’s made mistakes. Mistakes that cost him almost everything. These mistakes have followed him from college to the NFL, now Callaway understands his spot on the Tampa Bay Vipers roster may be his last shot at getting back to where he wants to be.
During his first media availability with the team, Callaway addressed his past. The 23-year-old knows he’s an imperfect person, and he’s suffered the consequences: while on suspension from the University of Florida, he decided he was leaving school and declaring for the 2018 NFL draft. His questionable reputation while being a Gator lead him to fall to the fourth round where he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns.
Callaway played a full season in 2018, leading the Browns in touchdown receptions (5), and finishing third on the team in yards with 586. In fact, Callaway showed such promise early on that Cleveland felt comfortable with dealing fellow wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has a troubled past of his own, in order to move Callaway up on the depth chart and secure him more targets.
In no small part to Callaway, his success was gone as fast as it arrived. In 2019, he only played in four games. He was suspended the first four games of the season due to violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Upon his return in week five, as Callaway admitted, his lack of focus lead to him ultimately being waived in mid-November.
At the time Callaway was facing another 10-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He was suspended for the final seven games of 2019 and is suspended for the first three weeks of 2020.
“He knows this is his only chance to play football again, is to do it here.”Tampa Bay Vipers Head Coach Marc Trestman on Antonio Callaway
On January 16th, The Vipers claimed Callaway on waivers. At that point, the team was almost two-weeks into training camp. Callaway knew he had to prove that his concentration was on football, that his commitment was to his craft, and that he was primed to make an impact.
We’re back to work ?@Ripbobby_G | #ForTheLoveOfFootball pic.twitter.com/3bu26Lip8d— Tampa Bay Vipers (@XFLVipers) January 17, 2020
Like many XFL players, this isn’t their dream job. Many want to play their way into an opportunity to get a shot, or get back to playing in the NFL. But Callaway has made it clear he isn’t taking this chance for granted:
“My goal right now is focused on the Tampa Bay Vipers and next week in New York.”Callaway on his mindset ahead of the Vipers’ season opener on Feb. 9
Talent was never the question. As of now, Callaway is one of nine wide receivers on the Vipers roster. And Marc Trestman, the team’s head coach and general manager, who is a veteran of professional football won’t put up with any distractions.
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