Strong arm. Risk-taker. Swagger.
Those are three words and ways you will hear the game of Stephen Calvert, aka Buckshot, described.
Yes, Buckshot. The name originated with the favorite NASCAR driver of his father and was passed on to him. And you will be hard-pressed to find anyone calling him anything other than Buck or Buckshot is how it was explained to me.
“No, I like the label. I’m not going to run from it. That’s how I am. I feel when I have the ball in my hands I can light it up on anyone. I can make any throw on the field. So, yeah, I’m a gunslinger,” was how Calvert reacted to being labeled as a gunslinger.
And if you don’t believe him you can look to the upset victory over Baylor as the game that put Calvert on the map. In that 48-45 road win, Calvert threw for 447 yards on 44 of 60 passing with 3 TDs and 0 INT.
“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder and playing against those (bigger) schools has always been something I’ve lived for. I know my talent and I know my teammates’ talent, so I just want to go out and show everyone what we’re capable of,” was how Calvert explained his emotions when competing against higher-level competition. If you need another example against big-time competition we can look to his game against BYU. Calvert posted 303 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INT while completing 27 of 45 pass attempts. The week before Liberty battled BYU potential first-round pick Jordan Love (Utah State, QB) played the same BYU defense and had a far tougher outing. Love threw 3 INTs with 1 TD.
And if you’re still not convinced we can look to Bill Parcells and the Parcells Rules for QB evaluation and see that Calvert checks 6 of 7 boxes:
- 3 Year Starter: Yes, 3.5 years as a starter. He started the final 7 games of his freshman season.
- College Senior: Yes
- College Graduate: Yes, graduated a semester early
- Start 30 Games: Yes, 40+ career starts
- Win 23 Games: Yes, 26 career wins
- 2:1 TD/INT Ratio: Yes, 93:40 career or 2.325:1
- Completion Percentage 60 or Above: No, 57.1%
Additionally, Calvert has had the privilege of learning under two strong coaching staffs with Turner Gill/Joe Dailey and Hugh Freeze/Kent Austin. Gill and Dailey have worked together since Dailey was a player for the Nebraska Cornhuskers program. Gill is best remembered for his legendary playing days and is well regarded as a leader and developer of talent on and off the field. Freeze has a reputation as an offensive mastermind having put together elite units along the way at Arkansas State and Ole Miss. Austin is a former NFL and CFL QB with a mountain of coaching experience on both the collegiate and professional levels. “Playing for both coaching staffs really helped me learn as a QB. Learning a whole new offensive system for my senior year was a challenge, but like Coach Freeze said early on film study and going over the playbook would be huge for me and my growth. I listened to the advice and we were able to have a nice season,” was how Calvert detailed his transition to a new staff for his final season.
That growth wasn’t limited to the field. During the season Calvert became a parent for the first time. Calvert said becoming a father changed a lot for him, “Before I had my son I was just focused on other things, but when he came everything changed. It changed me. It made me a better person. I don’t have the words to describe the feelings I get from being a dad. It’s amazing. I love it.”
That growth has followed Calvert as he trains for his NFL opportunity, “I’m working on everything right. I know I can throw the ball and so do others but I still work at that. I want to be the best. The biggest things for me right now are the agility and footwork. I just want to make sure I’m prepared for the next level so for me that means working on it all. Also, taking care of my body and having my weight where I want it to be.”
It is during this time that Calvert mentions his support system. Calvert talks about how dedicated he is to his craft and how it is a full family effort, “My girlfriend and mom are the best. I couldn’t do this without them. I train and workout a lot but it’s their love and support that makes it all possible. With them providing all the care for my son while I’m working out and when I come home it puts the biggest smile on my face. I’m blessed with it all.”
Another major accomplishment for Calvert and the Liberty Flames was winning their first bowl game in program history.
Calvert was instrumental in leading Liberty in a transition from FCS competition to the FBS level. The football program made a multi-year transition that saw the program reach new heights culminated by a 2019 Cure Bowl victory over Georgia Southern.
But the successful outcome wasn’t always promised.
Calvert transferred from Chaminade-Madonna to Carol City High School before his junior season. Carol City plays in the talent-rich Miami-Dade County Public Schools League which features some of the best football in the country. Calvert recalls, “If I told you some of the guys I played against in back-to-back weeks you’d think I’m lying. But that’s what made my transition to college ball the way it was. The speed down there (in Miami) can’t be matched. When I got to college the game speed wasn’t much different; as crazy as it sounds. So I was really able to just focus on playing ball.”
Calvert strung together two beautiful seasons at Carol City and had the attention of a handful of schools: South Florida, Bethune-Cookman, FIU and Liberty. The lack of recruiting interest was something I asked Calvert about and he responded, “Yeah, I was a little surprised that other schools didn’t come around. At first, I was a little disappointed because I thought I was better than some guys getting recruited by bigger schools but after I went to visit Liberty that all changed.”
The mouthwatering part about Calvert and his game is the upside. Calvert has made steady improvements to his game every season and when you put his film against the film of other 2020 NFL Draft QBs it is hard to find a more exciting player. Calvert has shown the ability to make those around him better and created a wonderful connection with Antonio Gandy-Golden, a top WR in the 2020 Draft, for the last four years setting countless program records en route to 12,025 career passing yards.
Calvert isn’t done and feels his best football is ahead of him. “I just want to get into a situation where I can come in and compete. Just make everyone around me better. I want to be in a situation where I can learn.”