Aug. 19, 2011
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Chins of University of Iowa football fans will hit the floor if Mika'il McCall treats opposing defenders like his father treated undefeated boxing champion Lenox Lewis in 1994.
McCall, a true freshman running back from Dolton, Ill., is the son of Oliver McCall, who handed Lewis his first loss Sept. 24, 1994, in Wembley, England, to win the World Boxing Council heavyweight belt. Oliver (55-11, 37 knockouts), who is still competing, defended the title against Larry Holmes before losing to Frank Bruno.
"It seems to be a big thing around here because all the players talk about it," McCall said. "To me, it isn't a big thing. It was something my father did; that was his legacy, so I'm here to make my own."
The younger McCall possess a heavyweight mentality that should make defenders leery. While his father floored the world's best fighters with a quick and powerful right hand, Mika'il enjoys making a name for himself with his quick and powerful legs.
"I like running over people, running through people and running for touchdowns," McCall said. "It's the best feeling."
McCall rushed for 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior at Thornridge High School. He also competed in track and basketball for the Falcons.
"I like running over people, running through people and running for touchdowns. It's the best feeling."
Hawkeye running back
Running back is a position currently under close evaluation at the UI, which will replace six of its top seven ground-gainers from a year ago. Sophomore Marcus Coker picked up 622 yards with three touchdowns in 2010, but aside from him, the next highest rushing total belongs to quarterback James Vandenberg, who gained 32 yards on six carries in three games.
"That motivates me a lot," said McCall of the immediate opportunity for playing time. "Even if there wasn't a lot of playing time, I would still be giving it my all. It doesn't matter, I'm still fighting for the spot either way."
Despite growing up in the heart of Big Ten Conference football country, McCall paid little notice to the programs in the league. That changed when Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin and many others began vying for his services.
"I listened to the coaches, looked at some of the players that came out and evaluated that information before making a choice," McCall said. "I picked the University of Iowa because I felt it was a better choice as a team and from an academic standpoint."
One figure that helped McCall make his decision was 44. That's the number of Hawkeyes currently on NFL rosters, including Shonn Greene, winner of the Doak Walker Award after running for 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2008. In two seasons (29 regular season games) with the New York Jets, Greene has gained 1,306 yards with four touchdowns and he has added another 502 yards and three touchdowns in the postseason.
"Iowa sends so many players into the NFL and hopefully I will be one of those players," McCall said.
McCall will break from his first camp after the Hawkeyes conclude practice this evening. During the first 17 practices he has soaked up everything head coach Kirk Ferentz has had to offer.
"Coach Ferentz is a great coach; to me, he's the best coach," McCall said. "He does everything to help me and point me in the right direction."
When football ends, McCall would like to be a physical therapist or a nurse. One thing is certain: he will leave the boxing ring to his father, whose nickname is The Atomic Bull.
If McCall earns playing time this fall, Hawkeye fans should notice another type of bull in the backfield: one running over and through defenders on his way to the end zone.