Napoleon McCallum now takes to the links while living in Vegas
LAS VEGAS -- Napoleon McCallum nearly lost his leg after suffering a career-ending knee injury in a season-opening game for the Los Angeles Raiders against the San Francisco 49ers in 1994.
Fortunately for McCallum, a former Navy star running back who recently was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, he was able to save the legs that carried him to greatness, and now, close to a decade after his horrific injury, he's more concerned with navigating doglegs on the myriad links of Las Vegas.
McCallum, who ranks second all-time with 7,172 career all-purpose yards at the Division I level -- only a few first downs behind Ricky Williams of the Miami Dolphins -- moved to Southern Nevada in 1996, shortly after ending a comeback bid to the NFL, to raise his family and open his own computer graphics company, Digital Pro Graphics.
In a strange twist of fate, McCallum, who always had aspired to be a pilot, became interested in computer graphics when he was recovering from six surgeries on his dislocated knee -- which resulted in three completely torn ligaments, one partially torn ligament, a ruptured artery and severed tendons.
"When I was hurt, I thought about what I could do the rest of my life where I didn't have to move around, something I could do sitting down," he said. "I had to have emergency surgery and they told me if the surgery didn't take, they were going to have to amputate my leg. It was very scary.
"All your life, as an athlete, you use your legs and they're talking about cutting it off. It was very tough, because I was at the high point of my career. I was getting not to just play in the NFL, but to be a starter in the NFL."
McCallum, a two-time consensus all-American who was sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1983 and eighth in 1985, played six seasons for the Raiders in a career also shortened by his five-year commitment to the United States Navy -- which was in addition to his time at the U.S. Naval Academy.
McCallum, who now shows no ill effects from his injuries, except for the scars, said he has few regrets, though.
"I can't complain," he said. "I played six years in the NFL."
McCallum, 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds in his playing days, still looks like he could pick up a few yards. These days, though, the polite, soft-spoken former pro athlete keeps his competitive fires stoked through the game of golf, which he started playing while with the Raiders.
McCallum, who has a 16-handicap, but has broken 80, plays in charity golf tournaments just about every other week and gets out during the work week every chance he gets.
"What I enjoy most about it is it's a constant challenge," he said. "All the tournaments are scrambles or shambles where you have to count on each person, so it's like playing team sports again. It's really exciting and it makes life great."
McCallum, a member at the newly opened Tuscany Golf Club in Henderson, said he enjoys playing the Revere Golf Club's two courses -- the Lexington and Concord -- as well as Rio Secco Golf Club and all the courses at Lake Las Vegas.
McCallum, who has been married to his wife Yvonne, for 10 years, and has two daughters, Breanna and Cheyenne, stays in touch with several former Raider teammates, including Marcus Allen and James Lofton, recent inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
McCallum, an invited guest of both players to their Hall of Fame ceremony, ranked Allen and Eric Dickerson as two of the top football players he's golfed with.
"Eric Dickerson is becoming really, really good," he said. "He has to give me strokes when we play, but he's got a lot more free time than I do. I have to work."
McCallum's company continues to flourish after eight years, with signage produced by his firm inside virtually every Station Casino, as well as at the New York-New York and the MGM Grand, a local mall and more.
McCallum said one of the proudest moments of his football career occurred last summer, when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., in a star-studded class that featured Dan Marino, Ronnie Lott and Reggie White.
"It's just a real big honor, especially when you're mentioned in the same breath as Dan Marino, Ronnie Lott, Kellen Winslow and Reggie White," he said.
With such a unique name, McCallum still gets recognized all the time and is always gracious.
"At golf tournaments, I get recognized a whole lot. When people here that name, Napoleon, they'll say, 'Oh, man, there was a guy from the Raiders named Napoleon," he said. "Most people remember the knee injury and that I played for L.A., and people on the East Coast remember the Navy.
"It's always neat when people remember you and things like that."
January 5, 2004