From the Sports Editor: Wesley product Callahan shines in Packers QB debut

Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan

When it looked like Joe Callahan was going to get to start his first NFL game with the Green Bay Packers last week, it seemed almost too good to be true.

So when the contest was cancelled because of a last-minute problem wth the field, it was as if fate was saying, ‘See? Six-foot-1, Division III quarterbacks aren’t supposed to start in the NFL.’

“It was the worst,” Wesley College coach Mike Drass said a few days ago. “We were talking all week like, the football gods are smiling on him.

“He’s signed as an undrafted free agent, Aaron Rodgers isn’t going to play, (backup Brett) Hundley gets knicked up, ESPN contacts us, Jon Gruden is going to do a special on Joe. … He was really disappointed.”

But Callahan’s storybook start had a happy ending after all.

The Packers not only started the former Wesley College star in their preseason opener against the Browns on Friday night, they left him in for the entire first half in a contest played at legendary Lambeau Field.

And, all things considered, the night really couldn’t have gone much smoother for Callahan.

Last year’s Gagliardi Trophy winner completed 16-of-23 passes for 124 yards with no interceptions in Green Bay’s 17-11 victory.

Callahan was at his best on a 12-play, 80-yard drive just before halftime. He completed 8-of-10 passes for 60 yards on the march, finishing it off by hitting running back John Crockett in the flat for a two-yard touchdown pass.

Back in Dover, where the Wesley football team was watching the game in an auditorium, the Wolverines broke into cheers at the TD.

On the sidelines in Green Bay, Rodgers gave Callahan a pat on the shoulder.

“I thought both QBs did an excellent job, Joe (Callahan) in particular,” said Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy. “Was very pleased with the way Joe managed the game.”

“It was a great experience to get out in front of a crowd like that tonight,” said Callahan. “A dream come true. Being a Packers’ fan growing up, it was really special. But I made sure that I didn’t let my emotions get the best of me.

“That’s something that we practice every week,” he said about running the two-minute drill. “To be able to execute it like we did on the field tonight was just really exciting.”

It turns out there’s one more little wrinkle in Callahan’s story with the Packers.

Callahan’s grandfather, Francis Joseph Callahan, passed away last fall. When Callahan’s mom, Judy, was going through her father-in-law’s things, she found a letter he received from the Packers in 1953.

According to the story on ESPN.com, Green Bay was looking for more information on the elder Callahan before that year’s NFL Draft. While Callahan ended up playing baseball, 63 years later, the Packers are giving his grandson a chance at the NFL.

“It’s just this strange little story with the Packers and our family,” Judy told ESPN.com. “We’re just in awe. The Packers were Joey’s team growing up, and for them to be the team that took interest in him, sometimes I’m just speechless.”

Delaware at the Games

In her first appearance in the Olympics, UD product and Wilmington native Elena Delle Donne (11, left) has helped the U.S. to a 4-0 start. Coming off the bench, she’s averaging 8.5 points per game to go along with 13 assists and 11 rebounds. (TNS photo)

In her first appearance in the Olympics, UD product and Wilmington native Elena Delle Donne (11, left) has helped the U.S. to a 4-0 start. Coming off the bench, she’s averaging 8.5 points per game to go along with 13 assists and 11 rebounds. (TNS photo)

Delaware got a nice little shoutout during the Summer Olympics this week.

During a U.S. women’s basketball game telecast, the cameras showed a ‘Delaware Blue Hens’ banner hanging in the arena.

Behind the banner was a small group of fans who were there, of course, to watch former Blue Hen hoop star Elena Delle Donne.

In her first appearance in the Olympics, Delle Donne has helped the U.S. to a 4-0 start. Coming off the bench, she’s averaging 8.5 points per game to go along with 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

Of course, the U.S. women are expected to dominant every team they play. So critics complain if they don’t win by enough — but also if they win by too many points.

Delle Donne admits it’s a little frustrating sometimes.

“That’s why it’s so important that we have a tight-knit group,” she said. “We know in the locker room what we want to work on, what we’re happy with, what the focus is all about. You can’t always make everyone happy.

“It’s so funny because, in other sports, the dominance of a Michael Phelps is so celebrated. But us, people want to hate on us and say we’re killing the sport.”

Delle Donne isn’t the only Delaware athlete shining at the Games, either.

Katelyn Falgowski (St. Mark’s) and Caitlin Van Sickle (Tower Hill) are both members of the U.S. women’s field hockey team, that’s also started out 4-0. Falgowski has come back from a torn ACL as well as a serious concussion during her career to play in her third Olympics.

Odds & ends

• Monday marks the end of the summer for Delaware high school athletes and the start of preseason practice for fall sports. Most teams will hit the fields — or gyms — bright and early on Monday.

• Earlier this week we told you about Dover High grad Amane Solomon, who’s in her fifth year as a lifeguard with the Rehoboth Beach Patrol.

According to RHB captain Kent Buckson, Solomon is the first black, female lifeguard in the patrol’s 95-year history.

• Former Delaware football coach K.C. Keeler, whose Sam Houston State squad is ranked No. 2 in the FCS in preseason, has 12 Division I transfers on this year’s team.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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