Former Harriton star gets a shot with Soul

Defensive tackle Callahan Bright, getting instruction from Soul coach Mike Hohensee, has endured some tough times.
Defensive tackle Callahan Bright, getting instruction from Soul coach Mike Hohensee, has endured some tough times.
Posted: February 24, 2011

Practice had ended, and Soul coach Mike Hohensee singled out defensive lineman Callahan Bright in front of the Arena Football League team for his hustle and intensity.

Such plaudits used to be common for Bright, who is looking at what could be his final chance to regain the dominant position he once held in the football world.

"It felt good when the coach said that," Bright said after Monday's workout at the NovaCare Complex. "I want to be a leader on this team."

A 6-foot-1, 365-pound defensive tackle, Bright is looking to make the Soul and resurrect his football career in his own backyard. The Soul, the 2008 Arena Football League champions, are returning to action after not fielding a team the last two seasons. They open their season March 11 at Pittsburgh against the Power.

A 2005 graduate of Harriton High School, Bright was ranked the No. 14 recruit in the Class of 2005 by Rivals.com. That earned him a scholarship to Florida State, but he didn't qualify academically, and that began his descent.

He attended prep school for a year, had a brief stint in junior college, and returned home to the working world, where he was employed as a garbageman. From there it got worse.

In July 2007, Bright was arrested in the delivery of marijuana to an informant assisting Montgomery County detectives. Charged with a felony count of possession with the intent to deliver, he was held in lieu of $50,000 bail. His family was able to post bond after it was reduced to $15,000 a week later.

Bright pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served and two years' probation.

"I was young, 19 years old, got in trouble after making some bad decisions. But since then I have been focused on turning things around," Bright said.

He surfaced at Division II Shaw University, where he became eligible in 2009 and finished with 48 tackles, 71/2 for losses, and half a sack. Bright bypassed his senior year and wasn't selected in the 2010 NFL draft.

After the draft, Bright said, he had a workout with the Cleveland Browns, but the NFL team didn't show further interest. Last year, he played for two teams in the AFL - Jacksonville, from whom he was cut, and then Tulsa.

The praise after Monday's practice by Hohensee was especially telling because the AFL veteran coach doesn't mince words when talking about his defensive lineman, alternating praise with constructive criticism.

"I love Callahan Bright's energy and how difficult he is to block," Hohensee said.

How can he not like somebody who has great strength, ran the 40-yard dash in the five-second range when he was preparing for the NFL draft, and can dunk a basketball?

Yet there is more to the story, and it has to do with intensity.

"He has a reputation of making one big play and then taking three off, and that is not going to happen," Hohensee said. "I told him that coming here: If I see him take a play off, he's going home."

Bright understands both the situation and his reputation.

"I got a history of not being in the best shape," Bright admitted. "I kind of have worked harder on some plays than others, and that is something I'm trying to get better at, get in good shape and not take plays off."

Bright sees many players performing in the NFL who were ranked below him in high school, and he still aspires to reach that level.

"That is the ultimate goal, to reach the highest level of competition and support my family," he said. "You have to dominate here to get to the NFL, and if you don't dominate, you won't go anywhere."


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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