Q: How did you got the name Napoleon?
A: My dad's name is Napoleon and my granddaddy's name was Napoleon -- I don't really know how far back it goes. You know, it's had its good times and its bad times. A lot of Napoleon Bonaparte jokes. I like Nap better. It's friendly. Napoleon's a little formal.
Q: Didn't you want to be an astronaut at one time? Is that still in the back of your mind?
A: Well, in the very back of my mind. I like football a lot and I've seen what it takes to be an astronaut, how much flying you have to do and how they have to be real smart and I don't know if I'm going to be able to give that all my time. You have to be obsessed with it. When I first came here I wanted to be an aerospace engineer and the administration -- teachers and counselors -- were turning me away from that. I didn't really do too well the first two semesters. When I came here I thought I was real smart. I thought I was a brain. But you know, there's a lot of brains at the Academy.
Q: Do you think of football as a way of life?
A: No, I think of it as just a part of it, just a little short part of it, like five or six years and then it's got to end. I've had fun the years I've played, but there's only five or six more years I can play and then go on to something else.
Q: Five or six years is about the length of time of your military service commitment after you graduate. Is that an unhappy coincidence?
A: It's unhappy but I'm committed to doing it now, so I have to do it.
Q: Your parents are both teachers, but you grew up on a family farm. What was that like?
A: It was a lot of hard work. We had 11 or 12 acres and back then when we first got the land it was real rough. My dad had me working out there cutting trees and once the trees were cut we had to fence the area in so we could buy this cow, build a barn. We've built a bunch of barns and sheds for the horses and cows. Then we had the garden to work with and we had to plant bean seeds and then you had to pick everything. My dad, he'd wake me up five minutes after he got up. Time to work.
Q: Your dad once said that he thought you started into sports just to get out of some of the work. Is that true?
A: Probably. I was involved in all the sports back then. "Dad, I got to go to the track meet and I have to get out of the work." That was the big incentive for m.
Q: You had a horse of your own?
A: Yeah. I called him Buddy.
Q: Was he your Buddy?
A: He wasn't. My horse tried to kill me. We didn't have a saddle for him so we rode him bareback and I really didn't spend as much time as I should have with him trying to train him. He had gotten wild and riding him bareback didn't help either because he'd run kind of funny and then he'd stop all of a sudden and he threw me over the top of him and then he ran over the top of me. I didn't mess with him anymore after that. I gave up riding.
Q: Your father was the disciplinarian?
A: Very strict. You were scared to do anything wrong and have him know about it. I stayed pretty good.
Q: One time when your parents had struggled and saved and finally bought a mobile home and just moved into it and you went into your bedroom and in your brand new paneling carved a picture of an airplane.
A: I knew you were going to bring that one up. I don't know much about that, but I hear I did that.
Q: But your mom saved you from a spanking.
A: Yeah, she was always there to save me. Sometimes she just couldn't help it, she'd say, "I'm sorry -- "
Q: Wasn't there a time when you were getting a lot of demerits early on in the Academy and you called home and said, "I can't do anything right."?
A: It was frustrating. I had gone through two levels of the chain of command and I was going to another one because I was in trouble so much. After that I got everything together and things settled down. I still didn't like to be here, it was hard, but I kept going. To know things like buildings in the yard, laws of the Navy, "knowing the ranks." That's (what) I got in trouble for. Here's one stanza: "These are the laws of Navy, unwritten and buried they be, and he who is wise will observe them going down in the ships in the sea." There's like 26 of those you had to memorize. I never got all of those. And then you had to remember chow calls. Chow calls were what you had for the meal, what uniform you're wearing, what time formation is and how many minutes you've got to get to formation. Your mind gets cluttered and it's hard (to) repeat all those things fluently and immediately.
Q: After two years at the Academy, you could have left and not incurred any military service commitment. Why did you decide to stay?
A: I wanted to leave and I didn't want to leave. I was just mixed up. Part of that mix-up was everyone telling me how good I was. I did believe them and I didn't believe them. When I started arguing with my parents about it, I think my head got a little big with all the talk. I just wanted to wait and see. If I was really good someone would have come and picked me up or something. But no one did, so I stayed around. (My parents) wanted me to stay, definitely. I was like, "Can't you see I could be famous somewhere? I could make a lot of money once I get out of school." My dad even went as far as saying, "You're not smart enough to make your own decisions. You are not old enough to make your own decisions. Stay at this school, even if you don't like it, stay there for me and your mom."
Q: Your mother said you have been more of a joy than a responsibility and that she doesn't feel as if she "suffered" enough as a parent. That's quite a compliment.
A: Well, that's my dad's fault. He said when I was in second grade, "You get in trouble, the teacher has to spank you and your mama's going to spank you and then I'm going to spank you. So I was good. Whenever I got in trouble at school, (I'd say), "You sure you're not going to tell my parents?"
They drove into me that drugs are bad, alcohol. They told me about how everybody gets out of control. Then they let me decide. Alcohol I've touched a little bit, but I don't drink excessively. I barely drink at all. Just to work hard in school. They didn't really give me a lot of money, if I wanted money I could do some work for it. Just important basic values. Respect people and they'll respect you.
Q: The last time I talked to you you told me the only thing you had to fear as a football player was getting hurt and that there was only one in a million chance that that would happen. It happened.
A: Yes, it happened. All the years I've been playing I usually get injured, nothing real bad. Wouldn't (put) me out for a whole season. Last year it was a fluke type of accident. It wasn't really any tremendous hit or anything. Just a bad turn and bad hit. I looked down and I saw it sitting kind of funny, my whole foot turned. It didn't really hit me at all until later when everybody kept on saying, "(The) Heisman Trophy was just taken away from you, Nappy. You should have had it." I was wondering how the team was going to do after that, because I know they counted on me. I wasn't there to do anything to help them. That hurt a lot.
Q: Last fall a high school player in Ohio was injured in a football game and paralyzed. You went to see him just a couple of weeks after your accident.
A: I didn't really know how to act or anything, but he was real cheerful and we saw him, he had lost a lot of weight already. Just tried to cheer him up a little bit and you get cheered up by doing what we did.
Q: Did being injured change your perspective on football at all? Having your first real serious injury?
A: No, that's just part of the game. You're going to get hurt. But I have a lot of fun playing. And it's worth getting hurt. I mean, it's not worth getting hurt, but it's worth the chance. You've got real good doctors and they can repair you from most anything. As far as life's concerned, you just go out and have fun and things will happen to you. God is always planting these things on us. It's just a way of testing. You hope you're ready for the test. I wasn't ready. It hurts you and you say, "Why me? Why do I have to get hurt?" After awhile you realize that you are hurt and there's nothing you can do about it so stop crying about it and just go on. You can do something else.
Q: You said you had a lot more to look forward to in life. Like what?
A: Well, getting out of the service. No. Flying. Getting a job. Having kids. Raising a family. Getting married. All that stuff. Football is a real small part. I have to find me a girl friend so I can get married. I'd like to be a family man. I don't want to be wild and run out with a lot of girls or anything. Just one nice girl, and I hope she likes remote-control airplanes.
Q: Your team elected you co-captain. Do you think of yourself as a leader?
A: I want to be. I want to give talks. I want to be like a real dynamic type of guy, tell funny jokes and get a message across to people, too. I want to be a leader like Captain Kirk. I like the way he's funny, he's everything, he loves his crew, loves his people. He commands. I'd like some of that to rub off on me. Sometime I hope I can be like that. And I hope I can get the guys to perform.
Q: Do you think of yourself as a role model?
A: At times. I want to instill some of that. I went home for a week and I went to my sister's class and my dad's junior high 7th grade. Miss Ohio did the 8th grade assembly and I did the 7th grade assembly. I think she might have had the larger audience. Then I went to a 3rd grade class of one of my mom's friends and let them ask me questions, too. I guess they feel it's important to have a black really do well and then for him to come there and be right with them. I had little kids clinging onto me as I was leaving. I got a big kick out of it and I think they did, too.
Q: You've had quite a struggle to get back after your injury. Now they tell me you're running like a stallion.
A: I hope I am. I got back into the groove. One of the problems I had was thinking that every time I touched the ball I was supposed to get a touchdown and I wouldn't hit the hole like I used to. (Lately) I got back into just running up there and going through people instead of trying to go around them. That's something that makes me a good player.
Once I was off the crutches I went back dancing and the doctor keeps telling me not to dance on it because it could break. I am just real careful when I do it. He hates me because I don't listen to him sometimes. He said if I get hurt they're going to ship him to Alaska.
Q: Last autumn all over Annapolis there was this publicity poster of you dressed up as John Paul Jones and it said, "I have not yet begun to run." How do you feel about publicity like that?
A: I liked it, it was fun doing it. Next time they take a picture they'll take a picture of all of me so I won't get hurt.
Q: Right, your left ankle wasn't in the picture. Do you intend to make that caption come true?
A: Off the football field it has a deeper meaning. I thought about that a little bit when I got hurt. I said, I was silly to say something like that. You know, there's a run in life too. So I'm still running. Miles to go, a lot of miles.
Q: Doing what?
A: Just living life and doing important things, helping other people, helping myself out. Living it in a good way. A way that would be acceptable to my parents and to everyone else. A way that people would look up to and say, "God, I want to live my like you do. I want to have a family like he's got." Sort of like what my mama said, about everyone saying, "You raised those kids real good." That makes you feel good, something that you've created, something new and nice. I want that to happen.
Q: What has football done for you?
A: It's given me a chance to talk. Without it I wouldn't have been able to talk too well. In high school and junior high I was quiet. I really didn't talk a lot. Football has given me a chance to be heard. For people to see me. To have a whole lot of fun. I've had more fun in college football than I've had in high school football. We're playing against real good teams. You get a chance to test yourself and you get a chance to play with the guys that are on TV! It makes you feel real good.
In high school I played both ways, offense and defense. I had to tackle, that was the bad part. I like running with the ball. It's fun and here I get to run with the ball every time.
Q: There's more to Napoleon McCallum than football?
A: Yes. I don't know that much about football! I've nowhere near the grasp of the game and how pro football works and how you get out of a trap and things like that. I'm still learning all about that stuff. Ask me about submarines and ships, but not too much about football.