#STINGDAILY: Project: Rundown

April 12, 2013

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

This coming Thursday, Georgia Tech football head coach Paul Johnson will put on “The Inaugural International Student Football Clinic” at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

The goal of the clinic is to get international students up to speed on some of the basics of the game they might have heard referred to as “American Football” growing up and demystify some of the intricacies of the game.

Redshirt freshman defensive end Francis Kallon will probably have a good idea of what Johnson’s clinic will sound like, as for the last year-plus he’s pretty much gone through it. The main difference between Kallon and the participants of the clinic is that Kallon stands 6-5, nearly 290 pounds and harbors dreams of playing for Georgia Tech.

It’s a lot to learn — even for a Dean’s List student — and begins with the basics.

“I honestly have to learn everything. Every slip move, every club rip, every bull rush has to be intensified from how I used to do in the past,” said Kallon. “Especially, since I only played for one year before, I have to work harder than everybody else to make sure that everything is executed properly.”

The roster lists Lawrenceville, Ga., as Kallon’s hometown and Central Gwinnett as his high school but he was born and raised in London, England, and grew up playing rugby. He didn’t start adapting his skill set to football until his family moved to Lawrenceville when Francis was 18.

He starred at Central in his one season, making 70 tackles, 36 solo, 14.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, forcing a fumble, recovering three, a blocking both a punt and a field goal. His play and potential evoked a major recruiting battle involving at least 12 other schools offering scholarships — including several ACC and SEC schools. Georgia Tech emerged victorious.

But winning the recruiting war for Kallon set up the challenge of tapping that potential. He redshirted last season, which Johnson considered a good first step.

“He’s a big guy with a good motor and he can run around but he’s got a lot to learn about playing the game,” said Johnson. “I think the redshirt year was invaluable for him but he’s still got a ways to go. Certainly, he’s a great prospect. Right now we’ve got to get him to be a great player.”

Helping get him to that point is first-year defensive line coach Mike Pelton. Pelton, who was first-team All-SEC at Auburn, and a fifth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs as a player, and has coached defensive lines at Valdosta State (2000), Troy (2001-06), Iowa State (2007-08), Vanderbilt (2010), Louisiana-Lafayette (January through March 2011), and Auburn (2011), has a history of developing defensive ends. Among his protégés are Dallas Cowboys three-time All-Pro linebacker Demarcus Ware, and the Atlanta Falcons’ recently signed two-time All-Pro defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

Pelton realizes that Kallon has a long way to go to simply get on the field, never mind match the proficiency of Ware or Umenyiora, but he believes that with persistence and hard work, development is possible.

“Francis doesn’t have a real great football background, so he’s got potential there, and he’s just got to be developed,” said Pelton. “He’s in his third year playing football, while a lot of guys playing here are in their 10th year playing. So he’s so far behind with the instincts and all that. In time, if he works at it, he will be an effective player here but that’s totally going to be on him and how he responds to everything.

“He’s got to have a willingness, and he’s got to have the talent,” Pelton added. “I think both of them are there. It’s just a matter of how he applies it and how fast he comes along. When the light goes on it will be interesting to see, but right now that light isn’t on. You’ve got to be very demanding but at the same time you’ve got to be patient. Hopefully he can learn from some of these seniors. Being around experience will help him, too.”

Kallon says that he already has learned from observing the upperclassmen.

“They taught me how to be aggressive,” he said. “Their aggressiveness, the way they are aggressive pursuing the ball, coming off the block. I learned so much from them.”

Among those upperclassmen are redshirt senior defensive ends Emmanuel Dieke and Euclid Cummings, who not only have been great teachers but have been very supportive.

“Francis is a big guy. He has all the tools to become a great player. He’s just young,” said Dieke. “Right now, the most important thing he needs to work on is getting acclimated to college football, since he’s only been playing for like two years now. Just learning football, the game, and just going out there every day with a chip on his shoulder. That’s the main thing for Francis. He’s getting better every day. He’s learning plays. He’s going out there, he’s trying.”

“Francis has all the raw ability. His biggest thing is just getting it,” agreed Cummings. “He has to know that he can do it. Once he knows that he can take on a block and do things like that then the sky’s the limit for him.”

For now, Kallon will be happy getting on the field, and bringing an opposing ball-carrier down.

“Just learn everything I can, the fundamentals,” he said. “Soak up everything and go out there and be reckless and coach would say. Be reckless and just give 100 percent.”

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