Napoleon McCallum : Ensign Reports to the Raiders' Camp but He Will Have to Ship Out Soon

Times Staff Writer

He's not in the Navy now, Napoleon McCallum isn't. Not the one that belongs to the U.S government, anyway.

For the next 29 days, he's a member of Al Davis' private navy, the L.A. Raiders. This will allow him to attend training camp, which starts today, and even to play in their first two exhibitions.

He can be expected to look like an All-American running back, which he was. This, of course, would start other owners muttering about how Davis had done it to them again.

Could it be that Davis has sweet-talked the Navy into lending out McCallum for weekends?

Has Davis finessed an entire armed service this time?

No. Davis' reputation precedes him, but there is no evidence that he ever tried. He might have gotten McCallum with a low pick--the Raiders' third in the fourth round--but 30 days of his summer leave still seems to be all they can expect for the next five seasons.

"There are no terms on which you'll be available after the 30 days?" McCallum was asked Wednesday.

"No terms at all," he said.

But at least he can he keep in touch during the season?

"Yeah," McCallum said. "I'll watch 'em on TV."

Well, it was fun while it lasted. The fact that he's here at all is surprising, not to mention intriguing. Hadn't there long been speculation at the academy about his going straight to the NFL, even if everyone knew that was against the rules?

Wasn't this the new, hip-to-public relations Navy?

Was it just a coincidence that McCallum, first assigned to supply school in Athens, Ga., drove as far as North Carolina, called in and learned that he had been transferred--to a ship undergoing repairs in Long Beach?

Wasn't it pressing coincidence that the same vessel, an amphibious assault ship named the USS Peleliu, has a Raider history?

It's true. As part of a promotion with the Navy, the Raiders went aboard in 1984 and showed their highlight film. The Navy gave Marcus Allen a trophy and Tom Flores a USS Peleliu cap.

Flores is going to have to settle for the cap. For the moment, or for five years, the Peleliu isn't turning loose any halfbacks.

"I talked to my captain on board ship," McCallum said. "He said, 'A lot of people have been calling us and asking, but the only thing I've heard from Washington is to treat you like any other young ensign. You're going to be assigned normal duties.'

"I work from 7 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. Then there are the watches. It doesn't matter what time you work."

It's not that McCallum doesn't appreciate the suggestions. He had them himself often enough.

"Once you go to your first class of your junior year, then you're committed to the academy for two more years and to the Navy for five years," he said. "Before that, I thought, 'Hey, maybe I should get out of the academy and go to another college.'

"My mom and dad really wanted me to stay in the academy. We had fights about it. It just came down to what you want in life, to looking at what I had in the academy and gambling with it."

Did someone say cut a deal with the Navy? Al Davis may or may not have tried, but McCallum did, before that first class of his junior year.

"How'd that go?" McCallum said, laughing. "You can't do it. That's why I'm here.

"I tried to figure it out. I went to Naval lawyers. It's just not in the rule books."

Of course, Navy brass doesn't confide in its ensigns. Could someone up there be pulling strings for him to play football?

"There are a lot of people (in the Navy) who liked the idea," McCallum said. "They say it would be good for recruiting, just a good PR-type thing. But the Navy has a lot of tradition. It's those people, the old fogies . . . "

With a collective clearing of throats, Raider officials pointed out that Nap had dinner waiting, so he didn't get a chance to explain further about the old fogies.

You old fogies, you know who you are, anyway.

Raider Notes For their part, the Raiders are figuring on Napoleon McCallum for one month. "In the back of your mind, you always hope," Tom Flores said. "But we realized his commitment (to the Navy). We realized we had no control over his commitment. . . . This is a new experience for us. We're going to work him. But there comes a point in time, when you have to get the guys ready who are going to play." . . . McCallum will come in as a fullback. Flores said: "He's 6-2. He'll be 220, 225 by the time he grows up, if the Navy lets him get heavier." . . . The Raiders have nine draftees signed and in camp, but neither of the top two, Bob Buczkowski and Brad Cochran. The agents for both were on the way to Los Angeles Wednesday. Buczkowski's agent, Gus Sunseri said that he and the Raiders are close. "It's one of those things," Sunseri said. "We're at 9. If we don't get to 10, we don't strike a deal. I think it's down to that. It's rug-cutting time." . . . Cliff Branch, who spent most of last season on injured reserve, has told the Raiders that he wants to come to camp. "His retirement is on hold," Flores said. "He just wants to try one more time."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World