Deion Calhoun admits he was a little naive to think he would play right away when he arrived at Mississippi State in 2014.
The 6-foot-3, 303-pound offensive guard had dominated the competition in the Alabama Independant School Association Class A ranks and expected to have similar results once he reached college.
But after a few weeks of practice, Calhoun came to the realization that a redshirt year was needed for him to have the type of impact he wanted.
“The redshirt year actually helped out a lot,” Calhoun said. “When I first got here, I felt I had everything that it took to play right away. But as the year progressed, I watched myself and knew that I wasn’t ready yet. By me redshirting, I got that time in the weight room and got the coaching.”
It was during that redshirt season that Calhoun started to make huge strides in both his strength, technique and knowledge of the game.
“I’ve made a big ole jump,” Calhoun said. “When I got here, I was clueless. I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into when I left Birmingham. Now I have a feel for it and am more comfortable with everything.”
When it came time for Calhoun to hit the field this past fall, he felt ready. He played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman including one start in the Belk Bowl.
Now Calhoun has set his goals even higher at attaining a permanent starting spot this spring.
“It’s good that I got game experience so now hopefully I’ll be able to work hard and get the starting role now that I’m a little bit more comfortable in the game,” Calhoun said.
Since Justin Malone has now graduated, the Bulldogs have a vacancy at left guard that must be filled. Calhoun has worked at both guard spots but has his sights set at left.
“I’m comfortable at both guard spots but I prefer left guard,” Calhoun said. “I just need to keep working at right guard.”
Calhoun earned first team All-State honors in high school and participated in the AISA East-West All-Star game. He confesses after a full season in the Southeastern Conference that it is quite an adjustment in competition levels.
“It’s a big, big jump,” Calhoun said. “You basically have grown men that lift weights just like you. In high school I lifted weights but really didn’t have to. I was able to play natural. But here, you have to really work. It’s way faster, guys are way stronger, know what they’re doing and are more disciplined than they are in high school.”
The former three-star prospect chose a special day to commit to MSU during the recruiting process. Calhoun received his offer from John Hevesy five days before Christmas while the Bulldogs were practicing for the 2013 Liberty Bowl. He quickly made up his mind but waited to call the coaching staff on Christmas morning to deliver the good news.
“It was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had,” Calhoun said. “I’d worked hard ever since I was a little boy playing little league football until way up into high school. It was really a blessing because the school I came from is a very small school. There’s only one hallway and probably just six classrooms so it’s a blessing that I came from that small of a school to here with hard work.”