Like the rest of the linemen at Colorado, Shane Callahan knows how to work the grill, so it’s not surprising that CU’s blockers get together often to barbecue.
As far as Callahan is concerned, though, the get-togethers are less about eating than they are about coming together as a unit and doing all they can to make this a great season for the Buffaloes.
“We really are building close relationships off the field, which is helping on the field a lot,” said Callahan, a fifth-year senior guard/tackle.
Going into his final season of college football, finding success as a team is important to Callahan. He’s a Colorado native who takes pride in being a Buff and wants his teammates to experience success.
“I’m here to help the team,” he said. “I want to win games and have fun.”
A 2012 graduate of Chaparral High School in Parker, Callahan was a Parade All-American and rated as one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. He chose to play at Auburn, which was two years removed from a national championship.
After a redshirt year, Callahan was a part of Auburn’s 12-2 season in 2013, culminating in a trip to the national championship game (where the Tigers lost to Florida State). Callahan then transferred to CU to be closer to home and closer to his father, who had healthy issues.
“I’m glad I had the experience,” he said of his two years at Auburn. “(But) I wanted to be closer to family.”
Given the hype around Callahan coming out of high school, many expected him to be an instant starter when he got to CU in 2014. That didn’t happen, and in fact, he’s still fighting to earn a starting job as he enters his third year in Boulder.
Projecting collegiate success for linemen is difficult, however, and Callahan has learned over the years to not dwell on what others expected of him four years ago.
“From high school to college, it’s a whole different story,” he said. “It’s that learning curve; everyone has to get on it and you have to find your own way. Some guys take five years, some guys take two years. It’s a matter of your personal growth.”
Now 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Callahan said it wasn’t until 2014 that he was able to get to 300 pounds and have it be good weight. That’s a struggle many young linemen face.
“A big part is building muscle,” he said.
That’s an ongoing process, and one that has kept Callahan busy during his time at CU.
“It’s a lot of being patient and just focusing on yourself,” he said. “You want to be a team player, which you are, but to be a team player you have to make yourself better.”
Callahan has worked hard to make himself a better player.
Projected as a tackle out of high school, Callahan shifted to guard when he got to CU and spent the 2014 season learning from older players, such as Daniel Munyer.
Last year, Callahan was part of a three-man rotation at guard. He started five games and ranked third on the team with 721 snaps played. It was a tough season for Callahan and the CU line, however. The Buffs gave up the most sacks in the Pac-12, with Callahan allowing a team-high 9.5.
During the offseason, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre has been pleased with the determination, work ethic and improvement made by Callahan.
“Shane has kept improving and he’s doing well,” MacIntyre said. “I think he really improved this spring. I look forward to him playing a big role for us.”
While Callahan has practiced at both tackle spots and both guard spots, MacIntyre said, “We mainly see him fitting at guard.”
That’s fine with Callahan. At this stage of his career, he’s focused less on himself and more on getting the Buffs to their first bowl game since 2007.
“I’m just trusting (offensive line coach Klayton) Adams,” Callahan said. “I know he’s going to do the right thing and I’m just going to bust my butt to fill whatever spot he needs. I need to be ready to play anything.
“(As a team), I would love just to go out with a big statement, to set the bar even higher than we have. It doesn’t matter what bowl you go to; it’s an experience you’re not going to ever forget. I just want to help them do that.”
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.