Last weekend, a number of prospects committed to the Texas Longhorns had outstanding performances on high school football fields all around the country. Arch Manning showed why he is so highly rated, Cedric Baxter topped the 200-yard rushing mark for his third time this season, DeSoto teammates Tre Wisner and Johntay Cook both reached the end zone twice, safety commit Jamel Johnson scored points in all three phases of the game, and even defensive tackle commit Sydir Mitchell scored an offensive TD.
Three future Longhorns had their bye a week ago, and three more will get their bye this weekend. For those who will be taking the field there will be a number of exciting matchups.
Arch Manning will lead his second-ranked team against the #1 team in their classification. DeSoto will play a state-ranked district opponent. Connor Stroh’s Frisco Wakeland team will face its second straight state-ranked opponent. And on top of all that, this week will feature a game between two UT commits. Class of 2023 wide receiver commits Ryan Niblett and Jonah Wilson will both try to send their future teammate home a loser when Aldine Eisenhower and Spring Dekaney play tonight.
It should be a great week of high school football action, and the full schedule of games involving UT commits is below, along with recaps of last week’s games. The start times listed for each game are according to their local time zone.
After you’ve caught up on how these future Longhorns did last week, you can keep reading for a history lesson on J.R. Callahan, a west Texas high school football legend in the late 1930s who was a football star at Texas Tech before transferring to Texas during World War II and winning all-conference honors with the Longhorns.
2023 QB Arch Manning — New Orleans (Louisiana) Isidore Newman
2023 TE Will Randle — New Orleans (Louisiana) Isidore Newman
Last week: Manning completed 22 of 38 pass attempts for 317 yards and four TDs, and rushed for another TD; and Randle scored a TD and had a pair of sacks and forced fumbles in a 54-52 win over Benton.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:00, at Many (Louisiana)
Arch Manning’s performance against Class 5A team Benton last week is now the clubhouse leader for the signature game of his senior year. He led his Isidore Newman Greenies of Class 2A to a second half comeback to get the win after his team trailed by 18 points in the first half.
Unfortunately, Manning’s teammate and fellow Longhorn commit Will Randle suffered a torn ACL at some point during the game, and he will miss the rest of his senior season. Randle committed to Texas as a tight end, but he had played significant snaps on defense as well in the young 2022 season.
Newman is 3-0 for the season and ranked second in Class 2A. They have another tough matchup this week when they travel to face Class 2A’s top-ranked team, Many. Many, a school that produced former Longhorns Garrett Thomas and Myron Warren (now at Texas State), is in northwest Louisiana, and its campus is 265 miles from Isidore Newman’s.
2023 RB Cedric Baxter Jr. — Orlando (Florida) Edgewater
Last week: Had 28 carries for 245 yards and 2 TDs in a 14-13 win over Orlando (Florida) Jones.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:00, vs. Apopka (Florida)
Cedric Baxter was a five-star workhorse once again last week, and his team needed all of his 245 rushing yards and two touchdowns to edge Jones by one point. Baxter has had at least 21 carries in every game this season, and has rushed for over 230 yards in three of his team’s four games. He’s on pace to run for over 2,100 yards this season.
Baxter flew to Austin hours after his team’s game, and was present for the Longhorns’ win over UTSA on Saturday.
Edgewater improved to 4-0 with the win, and the Eagles are also 1-0 in district play. They have an odd schedule from here on out, with two remaining district games sandwiched between four remaining dates with non-district foes.
2023 RB Tre Wisner — DeSoto
2023 WR Johntay Cook II — DeSoto
Last week: Wisner had 11 carries for 58 yards and 1 TD, and 3 catches for 40 yards and 1 TD; and Cook had 8 catches for 179 yards and 2 TDs in a 63-0 win over Dallas Skyline.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:00, vs. Waxahachie
Tre Wisner and Johntay Cook both had the best statistical performances of their senior seasons thus far in last week’s drubbing of a formerly proud but recently downtrodden Dallas Skyline team. DeSoto outgained Skyline 558 yards to 21.
DeSoto actually punted on its first two offensive possessions, but scored touchdowns on eight of its next nine drives, only failing to score on their last possession of the first half after getting the ball at their own 22-yard line with 31 seconds remaining until halftime.
DeSoto is 3-1 for the season and 1-0 in district play. The Eagles moved up one spot to 12th in this week’s Class 6A rankings, and will next face a 23rd-ranked ranked Waxahachie team that is 4-0 and has outscored its 2022 opponents by an average of just under 39 points per game. Waxahachie opened its district schedule with a 51-21 win over Cedar Hill last week.
Tre Wisner highlights vs. Skyline
Johntay Cook highlights vs. Skyline
2024 WR Hunter Moddon — Houston Clear Lake
Last Week: Had one carry for -7 yards and returned two punts for 24 yards in a 42-21 win over Channelview.
This week: Bye
Clear Lake brought its record to 3-1 following a non-district win over Channelview last week. The Falcons have a bye this week before starting their district slate on September 30. If Clear Lake’s MaxPreps stats and Hudl highlights are any indication, Hunter Moddon has spent more time on defense and special teams than at receiver so far this season.
2023 WR Ryan Niblett — Aldine Eisenhower
Last week: Bye
This week: Thursday, September 22 at 7:00, vs. Spring Dekaney
Eisenhower is winless for the season, and will play Dekaney tonight in their first district game. The game will feature what should be a fun matchup of wide receiver skill, as Longhorn commits Ryan Niblett and Jonah Wilson will be on opposite sidelines. As the Longhorns’ 2023 recruiting class currently stands, this will be the last game in the regular season where Longhorn commits will be playing against each other.
2023 WR Jonah Wilson — Spring Dekaney
Last week: Bye
This week: Thursday, September 22 at 7:00, at Aldine Eisenhower
Dekaney is 1-2 for the season and will hope to start district play with a win when they travel to play Aldine Eisenhower tonight. See: the paragraph in the above section.
2023 TE Spencer Shannon — Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei
Last week: Team defeated Mililani (Hawaii) 42-14.
This week: Bye
Mater Dei remained unbeaten with a 42-14 win over a Mililani team that MaxPreps had rated as the top team in Hawaii. Mater Dei is 5-0 and has won 22 consecutive games dating back to the beginning of the delayed and truncated “2020” season.
Mater Dei is MaxPreps’ second-ranked team in the nation this week. The Monarchs have a bye this week before playing their first league opponent on September 30.
I haven’t mentioned this fact previously because I wasn’t aware it until I checked Mater Dei’s MaxPreps stats, but backing up their four-star junior quarterback Elijah Brown is a freshman named Cole Leinart. He is the son of former USC star QB Matt Leinart and former USC women’s basketball player Brynn Cameron. The younger Leinart — who already sports an offer from Arizona — is classified as a freshman but is old for his grade, as he’ll turn 16 in October.
2023 OL Jaydon Chatman — Killeen Harker Heights
Last week: Team lost to Odessa Permian 28-27
This week: Thursday, September 22 at 7:00, at Pflugerville Weiss
Harker Heights appeared to be in control early in their long-distance road game at Odessa Permian last Friday, as the Knights led 27-7 at halftime. But Permian scored three second half touchdowns — the last one with just 16 seconds left in regulation — to come back and get the win by a 28-27 score.
Harker Heights is 3-1 for the season and will open district play tonight against a 2-2 Pflugerville Weiss team playing their school’s fifth varsity football season, and their first as a Class 6A school.
2023 OL Andre Cojoe — Mansfield Timberview
Last week: Team defeated Carrollton R.L. Turner 63-6.
This week: Thursday, September 22 at 7:00, vs. Carrollton Newman Smith
On the opening possession of last week’s Timberview-R.L. Turner game, Turner drove 66 yards in two plays to take an early 6-0 lead, then recovered an onside kick and got as close as Timberview’s 37-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. Timberview outscored Turner 63-0 the rest of the way, and only allowed Turner to cross midfield one other time.
The Timberview Wolves remain the second-ranked team in Class 5A Division I, and should improve to 5-0 tonight with similar ease when they play a Newman Smith team that lost 44-6 to Birdville in its district opener last week.
2023 OL Trevor Goosby — Melissa
Last week: Team defeated Crandall 50-22.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:30, at Terrell
Melissa improved to 2-2 and won its first district game last week over Crandall. The Cardinals will go for a 2-0 start to district play on Friday when they face 1-3 Terrell, which lost its district opener to Lovejoy last week by a 59-7 score.
2023 OL Payton Kirkland — Orlando (Florida) Dr. Phillips
Last week: Team defeated Windermere 35-7.
This week: Friday, October 23 at 7:00, at Orlando (Florida) Boone
Dr. Phillips’s road game against Windermere was postponed from last Friday to Monday of this week due to severe weather, and the game site was also changed to Dr. Phillips’s home field.
The Dr. Phillips Panthers got their first win of 2022 in a very unusual Monday night football game, and also got a 1-0 start for their district schedule. The team only has two opponents in its district, so only one district game is left in the team’s six remaining games. On Friday they play non-district opponent Boone, which is 3-1 for the season.
2023 OL Connor Stroh — Frisco Wakeland
Last week: Team lost to Frisco Reedy 41-37.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:00, vs. Frisco Lone Star
Wakeland trailed Reedy (the eighth-ranked team in Class 5A Division I) 24-9 at halftime of their matchup last week. But the Wolverines made a second half comeback and took a 37-34 lead following a touchdown pass with 4:49 left in regulation.
Their defense stopped Reedy on 4th-and-1 to get the ball back at their own 44-yard line with 2:06 left on the clock and a chance to ice the game. But Reedy used timely defense to keep Wakeland from getting a first town, and their three timeouts to preserve time on the clock. Following a quick three-and-out, Wakeland punted the ball back to Reedy with 1:50 left in the game, and the punt was returned 88 yards for a game-winning touchdown by senior receiver Kaleb Smith, a Texas Tech commit. Trailing 41-37, Wakeland was unable to get even close to scoring a go-ahead touchdown.
The Wolverines are now 1-3 overall and 0-2 in district play. On Friday they will face ninth-ranked Frisco Lone Star, which is coming off its bye week and lost to Reedy 13-7 two weeks ago in its first district game.
2023 DL Sydir Mitchell — Oradell (New Jersey) Bergen Catholic
Last week: Caught one pass for a one-yard TD, and made two tackles (one for loss) in a 35-14 win over West Orange (New Jersey) Seton Hall Prep.
This week: Saturday, September 24 at 1:00, vs. Ramsey (New Jersey) Don Bosco Prep
Sydir Mitchell has now scored touchdowns this season on a fumble return and a pass reception. Bergen Catholic won its fourth straight game last week, and its first league contest of this season. The Crusaders have won 17 consecutive games dating back to their last game in the shortened 2020 season.
Bergen Catholic moved up one spot to 13th in this week’s MaxPreps national rankings, and on Saturday it will face a 2-2 Don Bosco Prep team that the same site ranks fourth among New Jersey teams.
2023 DL Dylan Spencer — Houston C.E. King
Last week: Bye
This week: Friday, September 22 at 7:00, vs. Humble
C.E. King is 2-1 for the season and will play its first district game on Friday against Humble. Humble likewise has its bye last week, and in its most recent game got a 45-35 win over Jonah Wilson’s Spring Dekaney team.
2023 EDGE Derion Gullette — Teague
Injured - out for 2022 season
2023 EDGE Billy Walton — Dallas South Oak Cliff
2023 CB Malik Muhammad — Dallas South Oak Cliff
Last week: Walton was credited with 11 total tackles (3 for loss), and Muhammad was credited with 12 solo tackles in a 31-28 win over Dallas Parish Episcopal.
This week: Thursday, September 22 at 7:00, at Dallas Adamson
South Dallas’s long nightmare is over, the defending 5A Division II state champion South Oak Cliff Golden Bears finally got their first win of the 2022 season, beating upset-minded private school power Dallas Parish Episcopal.
SOC outgained Parish Episcopal by 100 yards and forced five Parish turnovers, but had to come back from a 14-point deficit in the 4th quarter and kick a 43-yard field goal as time expired to get the win. SOC led 14-7 at halftime, but three Parish touchdowns in the first nine minutes of the 3rd quarter (one off a pick-six) gave the Panthers a 28-14 lead over SOC with 3:15 left in the 3rd quarter.
In the game’s first three quarters, SOC’s offense had a pick-six, a missed field goal after getting to the three-yard line, and three other drives that resulted in turnovers on downs after advancing into Parish territory. SOC’s 17 points in the 4th quarter all came on possessions set up by Parish turnovers on their own side of the field.
Don’t read too much into the stats for Billy Walton and Malik Muhammad, as they are likely inflated or had an extra digit inserted accidentally. SOC’s defensive stats for the game posted to MaxPreps somehow credited their team with 64 solo tackles and 59 assisted tackles in a game where Parish Episcopal had just 20 rushing attempts, 8 completed passes, and a handful of special teams plays.
Now that they’ve got their arduous non-district schedule behind them, the Golden Bears should be in line for some comfortable wins as they get into district play, starting with tonight’s district matchup with Adamson, a team SOC has beaten at least 16 straight times going back to 2004 and not allowed more than 8 points against in any of those matchups.
Billy Walton highlights vs. Parish Episcopal
2023 LB S’Maje Burrell — North Crowley
Last week: Team beat Fort Worth Paschal 54-0.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:30, at Euless Trinity
North Crowley improved to 4-0 with a lopsided shutout of Fort Worth Paschal last week. The North Crowley Panthers outgained the Paschal Panthers 552-56, and limited them to just 4 first downs.
The Panthers will look to move their district record to 2-0 when they visit Euless Trinity on Friday. Trinity is a longtime Dallas-Fort Worth powerhouse that won three state titles between 2005 and 2009, and finished with double-digit win totals in 16 out of 18 seasons between 2004 and 2021, but the Trojans are in the midst of their worst season in a generation. Their 45-26 loss to district foe Saginaw Boswell last week dropped them to 0-4 for the season. The last year that Trinity lost as many as four regular season games was 1997, when its team finished 4-6. The Trojans went unbeaten in the regular season the following year and have reached the playoffs in 24 consecutive seasons, winning 19 outright district championships in that time.
A win over Trinity would very likely set up North Crowley’s October 7 game against Boswell as a battle for the eventual championship of District 3-6A.
2023 LB Liona Lefau — Kahuku (Hawaii)
Last week: Team lost to Bellflower (California) St. John Bosco 34-7.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:30, at Kapolei (Hawaii)
Kahuku had its 14-game winning streak ended last weekend in an inter-state matchup with the nation’s top-ranked team St. John Bosco of Bellflower, California. The Kahuku Red Raiders were without the services of injured star wide receiver Kainoa Carvalho, who has missed most — if not all — of this season after being named Hawaii’s player of the year for the 2021 season by Gatorade and MaxPreps, among other outlets. Still, they played valiantly and didn’t embarrass themselves in the 34-7 loss, and Don Bosco’s head coach said Kahuku had given his team their toughest game of the season thus far.
The Red Raiders will get back to facing home state teams on Friday when they play the unbeaten Kapolei Hurricanes, who are 5-0 for the season. This week’s MaxPreps rankings for Hawaii have Kahuku at #1 and Kapolei at #6. The teams have one common opponent so far this season; Kahuku beat Wai’anae41-6 on August 20, and Kapolei beat that same team 35-21 two weeks later.
2024 CB Jaden Allen — Aledo
Last week: Team beat Azle 55-20.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:00, at Saginaw
Aledo evened its 2022 record at 2-2 following a blowout win over Azle last week. There may be some similar scores in the Bearcats’ near future, as their next three opponents have a combined record of 2-9 so far in 2022, beginning this week with 0-4 Saginaw on Friday night. Saginaw has been outscored by an average margin of 44.5 points.
2024 CB Aeryn Hampton — Daingerfield
Last week: Team lost to Center 65-44.
This week: Bye
Daingerfield was ranked near the top of Class 3A Division II just two weeks ago, before losing decisively in consecutive weeks to Timpson, the top-ranked team in Class 2A Division I, and Center, a 4A Division II opponent.
The Tigers thankfully get a bye this week before beginning district play on September 30.
2023 S Jamel Johnson — Arlington Seguin
Last week: Had one reception for a 57-yard TD, returned an interception for a TD, and recovered a fumble in a 35-27 loss to Mansfield Summit.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:00, vs. Corsicana
Seguin fell to 1-3 for the season and 0-1 in district play following its loss to Mansfield Summit last Thursday. Jamel Johnson made his presence felt in all three phases of the game, though I almost missed his contributions to the game because the Dallas Morning News box score identified him as “J.J. Johnson”. He scored a touchdown on a 57-yard reception off a fake punt in the 2nd quarter, which made the score 14-13 in favor of Summit.
Seguin trailed 28-13 at halftime, and after Summit received the opening kickoff of the 3rd quarter, Johnson intercepted a pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 28-19. Later in that 3rd quarter, he caught a pass on a two-point conversion attempt to get his team to within one point at 28-27, and then recovered a fumble on Summit’s ensuing possession.
But Seguin wasn’t able to add to its score, and had a pair of punts, a turnover on downs, and a lost fumble on its last four possessions of the game.
On Friday the Cougars will host a Corsicana team that fell 45-7 against Ennis in their first district game last week.
2023 S Derek Williams — New Iberia (Louisiana) Westgate
Last week: Team beat Shreveport (Louisiana) Evangel Christian Academy 38-21.
This week: Friday, September 23 at 7:00, at St. Martinville (Louisiana)
Westgate is 3-0 after beating Shreveport Evangel Christian last week. The Westgate Tigers have a firm grip on the top spot in the Louisiana Class 4A rankings, garnering nine out of eleven first-place votes in this week’s Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA) poll. On Friday they play another non-district opponent, Class 3A’s St. Martinsville, which is 1-2 on the season.
Historic Longhorn Notable of the Week: James Ross “J.R.” Callahan (1943)
This Saturday, Texas will face Texas Tech on a football field for the 72nd time in the history of that rivalry, one that Texas leads on the all-time scoreboard 54 to 17. The teams first met in 1928, three years after Tech had fielded its first varsity football team. UT and Texas Tech played each other eight more times over the next 30 years, but did not become annual opponents until Tech joined the Southwest Conference in 1960. Depending on the expediency of UT’s removal from the Big 12 Conference and its admission to the SEC, Saturday’s matchup could potentially be the last time the two school play each other for quite some time.
With that in mind, I thought a good subject for this week would be a Longhorn notable who came to Texas after beginning his college career at Texas Tech. There are at least two candidates who fit that bill, the best-known being Hub Bechtol. Bechtol was an end who received AP honorable mention All-American honors as a freshman at Texas Tech in 1943, then was transferred to Texas the following year via the Navy’s V-12 officer training program, and went on to receive first team All-America honors in three straight seasons with the Longhorns.
But this post’s Historic Longhorn Notable of the Week is another ex-Red Raider who came to Texas under similar circumstances and starred on the football field for the Longhorns: James Ross Callahan.
Callahan — who was usually referred to either by his full name or as “J.R. Callahan” in news reports — was born in El Paso in 1920, and spent his high school years at Wink High School in far west Texas (the town of Wink is about 45 miles west of Odessa, as the crow flies). During his high school career he helped Wink’s football team to a 29-game winning streak, and also starred in basketball and track & field.
In track & field he reportedly ran the 100-yard dash in 10.1 seconds, could throw the discus 145 feet, throw the javelin 170 feet, and could clear 11 feet in the pole vault. He also sometimes competed in the shot put and 220-yard low hurdles. At the 1939 Cactus Relays in Iraan, Callahan won the discus throw competition with a toss of 146’3”, won the shot put with a heave of 48’8”, and ran on Wink’s mile relay team that clocked a winning time of 3:27. All three performances set meet records that stood for at least 23 years, and Wink’s mile relay meet record was not broken until 1983. As a senior at the 1940 state track meet (which was not yet divided into separate classifications), he finished second in the discus throw.
Callahan was a bit old for his grade (he turned 19 in December of his senior year), but even as a junior many who watched him play believed he was already the state’s top running back. He had an outstanding all-around skill set and was adept at running, passing, blocking, punting, and kicking, and he was widely viewed by contemporary sports writers and college coaches as the best high school football prospect in the state during his senior year, and perhaps the state’s top all-around high school athlete.
Texas Longhorns head football coach Dana X. Bible coveted Callahan more than any other high school senior in the spring of 1940. The odds of him ending up in Austin didn’t look good early on, as he was reportedly offered an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. But by March it was made known that he had turned down that appointment and planned to attend a college in Texas. On March 16, 1940, it was reported that he had narrowed his college choices to Texas, TCU, and Texas Tech.
By late April, he was said to have chosen the University of Texas as his college destination. But in early June he was reported to be living in Lubbock, and soon afterward it was confirmed that he would instead be attending Texas Tech. A later report indicated that Callahan had chosen Texas Tech because he wanted to study petroleum engineering. Another account — given nearly 60 years after the fact — stated that Texas Tech’s head coach had hired Callahan’s mother to be the dorm mother for the school’s athletic dormitory.
At that time Texas Tech was a member of the Border Conference at that time, which also included present-day FBS schools Arizona, Arizona State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, and UTEP. Callahan starred for Texas Tech’s freshmen football team in the fall of 1940, and when he made his debut on the Red Raider varsity team the following season he showed himself to be a talented triple-threat player. He started at left halfback and was not just a skilled runner but also the team’s top passer, as well as its punter and kicker on extra points.
His all-around exploits helped Tech to a 9-2 overall record and a berth in the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Day. The team’s two losses were both by 6-0 scores against Miami (Florida) and in the Sun Bowl against Tulsa.
The 1942 season was not as successful for Tech in terms of a pure wins-and-losses calculation, as it finished with a 4-5-1 record, but all of its losses came against non-conference opponents. The Red Raiders were named co-Border Conference champions with league newcomer Hardin-Simmons after the two teams went unbeaten against their conference opponents and tied 0-0 when they faced each other in Lubbock on November 21. Callahan was named to the All-Border Conference first team for his work in 1942, and in the winter following that season he was a member of Tech’s basketball team. Tech did not participate in track and field that year, otherwise he likely would have won a letter in that sport as well.
Callahan was an overachiever in nearly every sport he tried. An August 1943 article stated that in addition to winning letters in football and basketball, he was also “a crack swimmer” and “an adept diver” who had worked as a life guard; a bowler who regularly scored above 200 and who had once bowled a score of 240; one of the best players to be found on the Texas Tech campus in the net sports of tennis, badminton, and volleyball; and an experienced hunter who had killed a 300-pound bear at the age of 13.
Expectations were high for Callahan leading up to his senior season in 1943. In May of that year he was voted a co-captain of Texas Tech’s 1943 football team. He had enlisted in the Navy in the year since the United States joined World War II, and he was part of the Navy’s V-5 program, which was designed to train aviation cadets serving in that branch.
In late August, Callahan was reported to have been called to duty by the Navy, and within two weeks he had been transferred to Texas, which hosted a V-5 pre-flight training course on its campus. The Southwest Conference had voted that athletes who were V-5 trainees would be eligible for varsity competition, but Callahan did not get official approval from the Navy until mid-October.
Because he had starred at Texas Tech before being transferred to Texas, James Ross Callahan would come to be referred to as the Longhorns’ “lend-lease fullback”. His first game with the 1943 Longhorn squad was UT’s 34-0 win over Arkansas on October 16, which he played in after just five days of practice with the team. He ran for several long gains in the second half against Arkansas, then started at fullback and scored a pair of touchdowns the following week in a 58-0 win over Rice, reaching the end zone once as a receiver and once as a runner.
Besides his running, receiving, and kicking, Callahan also received high marks for his blocking. Weldon Hart, the longtime Austin sportswriter, wrote that in the Rice game he had showed “as spectacular a display of open-field blocking as the immortal Harrison Stafford ever authored.” Stafford was a three-time All-Southwest Conference halfback from 1930 to 1932, and a decade after the end of his college career he was still regarded by many as the best blocking back the Longhorns had ever had.
Callahan ran for two of UT’s three touchdowns in a 20-0 win over SMU on October 30. After just three games with the Longhorns he was already the conference’s fourth-leading scorer, despite not playing in the team’s first three games. After scoring another TD against TCU, and two more in a 27-13 win over Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day, Callahan finished the regular season as the Southwest Conference’s second-leading scorer with 52 total points, trailing only Longhorn halfback Ralph Park, who had 60.
J.R. Callahan (whose last name was frequently misspelled “Calahan” in news articles as the season went along) was one of four Longhorns voted to the AP’s All-Southwest Conference first team. The 1943 Texas Longhorns went 7-1 in the regular season and were conference champions. Their only loss came on October 2 by a 14-7 score against a stacked Southwestern University team whose lineup included seven former Longhorn lettermen who had been transferred there via the Navy’s V-12 officer training program.
Texas finished that season with a date in the Cotton Bowl against Randolph Field, a team made up of Army Air Force servicemen stationed at the Randolph air base northeast of San Antonio. That Randolph Field team had gone 9-1 in the regular season, losing only to undefeated Southwestern Louisiana. Randolph Field’s star player was Glenn Dobbs, a halfback who had won All-America honors at Tulsa and was the third overall pick in the 1943 NFL Draft, but had enlisted in the Army Air Force rather than sign with the Chicago Cardinals. Callahan had faced Dobbs in the previous season when his Texas Tech team lost to Dobbs’ Tulsa team in the Sun Bowl.
The 1944 Cotton Bowl was played in muddy conditions and rainy weather, and the game resulted in a 7-7 tie. A Glenn Dobbs pass accounted for Randolph Field’s only touchdown, while J.R. Callahan kicked the extra point following UT’s only touchdown.
The football season had barely ended when Callahan was shipped to Athens, Georgia for training with the Naval Pre-Flight school there. He showed off his physical prowess while there by completing the cadet obstacle course in three minutes and forty-five seconds. In the news article that heralded that accomplishment it was stated that a time of six minutes on that obstacle course was considered “average”, while a time of four minutes and twelve seconds got one a “superior” rating.
Callahan had been a very good student throughout his high school and college years, and at the Pre-Flight school also he showed that he had as much brain as brawn by finishing with the highest score in his graduating battalion.
In April of 1944 he was selected in the 2nd round — with the 13th overall pick — of the 1944 NFL Draft, but due to his service with the Navy he did not play pro football until 1946, when he was 25 years old.
In the 1946 NFL season, a foot injury kept Callahan out of action for a number of weeks, but he ended up appearing in nine games with the Detroit Lions. He returned to Detroit in 1947 and intended to continue his pro football career, but after suffering a knee injury in an intra-squad scrimmage in September of that year, he was put on Detroit’s “inactive list”, and he returned to Lubbock to complete his college course work at Texas Tech. He never played in the NFL again.
In 1950, San Angelo Standard-Times sports writer Blondy Cross, who had worked at the paper since 1928, named Callahan “the best all-around West Texas high school back” of the previous 50 years. After the end of his football career, he worked for a few years as the sales manager of a Lubbock car dealership. In his later years he lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico and worked for the University of New Mexico. He suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after finishing a round of golf at a course in El Paso in March of 1978. He was 57 years old.
In 1999, the Odessa American sought nominations for the best high school football players of the past century from many of the towns in the Permian Basin. Though few people who had witnessed J.R. Callahan’s gridiron exploits at Wink High School were still living by that time, he was the American’s pick for Wink’s best player of the 20th century.