Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman. Sean Calhoun, a 2000 Berkmar grad, is in his second season as an assistant football coach at Collins Hill High School.
Sean Calhoun, 29, is in his second year as an assistant football coach at Collins Hill. Calhoun is a 2000 graduate of Berkmar and led the Patriots to a pair of wins over rival Parkview. Calhoun won the Division II national championship as a player and coach at Valdosta State. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 2004 and got his master’s in health and PE in 2007.
Calhoun and his wife Kellie have one son Cade, 1, and a daughter on the way. In this latest installment of “Getting to Know ...,” Calhoun talks to staff writer Brandon Brigman about leading Collins Hill’s vaunted passing game, his playing days at Berkmar and Valdosta State and how he met his wife.
BB: Collins Hill has to find a new quarterback this season. Can we go ahead and put him down for 3,000 yards passing?
SC: I wish. I don’t ever see us repeating what we did last year, passing yards-wise. Taylor (Heinicke) was once in a blue moon. I might not ever coach a kid as good at some of the things he did. I’d like to say we could, we’re not going to ask this quarterback to do as much as we asked Taylor to do.
BB: Were you surprised by Taylor’s success and his record-setting numbers last year?
SC: Good question. I knew we could do it, but knowing we could do it and actually executing week in and week out and doing it was something else. It was kind of like that snowball effect. When he got in a rhythm, we were unbelievable. I guess yes and no.
BB: How much of his and the team’s success is attributed to you bringing in the spread-style offense from Valdosta State?
SC: Um, maybe just a little bit. I didn’t have anything to do with the defense. I didn’t have anything, I run the punt team, other than that I don’t really have a hand in special teams. Definitely a little bit from an offensive standpoint. I like to think a little bit, but probably not as much as everyone thinks.
BB: Is this a fad or gimmick offense or are we going to see this for a long time?
SC: I think it’s something that’s here to stay. People are tweaking it and this and that, they are just trying to put a defense in a bind. At the high school level, if you can do it great. But sometimes you don’t have the personnel. I think it’s here to stay, but I guess people are always looking for the newest, best thing around.
BB: What did you learn from the college level that you use now as a high school coach?
SC: Probably the main thing is practice, how to practice at a high tempo, how to be super organized, just getting your kids to play at a high level.
BB: What was it like playing behind former Florida State quarterback Fabian Walker at VSU?
SC: Oh, awesome guy. A year or two before, I’m watching him on TV in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia and I’m like this guy is transferring here? Don’t get me wrong, I was a little disappointed. I’m a realist. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to beat him out. But I ended being his backup and I wouldn’t change anything.
BB: How did that experience help you grow as a player?
SC: I guess that nothing is guaranteed. There was a couple of us that spring that were going to battle for that job. He came in and we battled through adversity. We thought it was going to be one way, but you have to get through it. Plus it was my last year, so I had stuck with it that long.
BB: You won two national titles — one as a player and one as a coach. Which one means more to you?
SC: I would say, they are kind of two totally different feelings. No, a player. It’s just we did it. As a coach, yes, you game plan and you put your kids in situations, but you’re not doing it. As a player, we go out on the field and we got it done. Plus, that’s the one that came first, so that one is special.
BB: What kind of player was GAC grad Tyler Aurandt, who played receiver at VSU and is now an assistant coach at Grayson?
SC: He was fast and could run. Those skinny little legs could fly. He was just smart, tough, he was just good. He would do the little things, block and was just a great teammate.
BB: Your wife is from Aberdeen, S.D. How does a guy living in South Georgia meet a girl from South Dakota?
SC: I went up there and coached at a school called Northern State. She was playing volleyball there. We met and two years later she came down here.
BB: How long did you stay up there?
SC: A year.
BB: Was the cold weather enough and you decided to come home?
SC: Yes, you know I went through my first blizzard, got my Jeep stuck. I saw more snow in one six-month period than I have ever seen in my life. But we go visit up there now every Christmas, it’s cool. The snowmobile is fun.
BB: How did you convince your wife to come down South?
SC: I paid her good (laughs). We did the long distance for about two years and it was miserable. She was finishing up and it was like what are you going to do? I ended up getting a job here and she came down here and got a teaching job. I wish it was closer to her folks, but it is what it is.
BB: The recreational activities are a lot more different there than here, isn’t it?
SC: Ice fishing is crazy. They set up literally like towns ... her parents live right on the lake, so the lake will get 18 inches thick.
They drive on there and just cut a hole in the ground. It’s fun. We went up there for the Fourth and they got a jet ski and pontoon boat and it was 80 to 90 degrees. When we go back again it will be complete opposite.
BB: How much convincing did it take for you to get on the ice to go fishing?
SC: Um, none. I did not want to get in the car, that scared me. I was like, ‘Are you sure about this?’ I could just envision it cracking and falling through. But it’s a foot and a half think and it isn’t going anywhere.
BB: You played at Berkmar in 1998-99 when Gwinnett County football was taking off. How is it different now?
SC: I don’t know if more talent is the right thing, but I think the talent has grown. Back in the day it was you had basically one or two studs at each school. Everyone else was just role players. I’d say now, especially in our region and Region 8, I mean there’s 10 great football players on every team I feel like. I think the competition and the coaching up there is second to none. I’ve been around South Georgia football. Don’t get me wrong, it’s phenomenal, but I think across every team up here it’s second to none.
BB: Who was the best player you played against?
SC: The best player would be (Shiloh’s) Davey Pollack. He comes to mind. I know you know him.
BB: Yeah, you actually answered the wrong Shiloh guy. You’re supposed to say me. It was a trick question.
SC: Oh man.
BB: So you would say Pollack, though?
SC: I probably would just because I remember him sacking me three times my senior year. My senior plaque they gave me an action shot and he’s breaking a double team in the background, just waiting to drill me. He was good and I played against Dunta Robinson at Clarke Central, who went on to be a first-round draft pick.
BB: Do you still take pride in being on the last Berkmar team to defeat Parkview?
SC: I do. I do and that Green Flag meant a lot. It meant a lot. Actually me and (former Parkview and Valdosta State quarterback) Buster Faulkner, this is no lie, every time we see each other he brings up something about that game or I bring up something about it. We beat them two years in a row, but my junior year it was a forfeit.
BB: How much does that forfeit in 1997 still sting?
SC: Hurts my heart every single day. It killed us. Oh my God it killed us. That still haunts me, but we beat them my senior year and that’s still great.
BB: This is your second year as assistant at Collins Hill. Do you want to be a head coach some day?
SC: I do. It’s nothing I’m going to rush. I’m not going to step into a bad situation. It has to be a right move for me and my family, but hopefully in three to five years I¹d love to be a head coach.