Friday, January 8, 2010

Meadows, Callier among the best

by Scott Cobos, Staff Writer, Downey Patriot, Jan 01, 2010

On a foggy night in 1956, Downey High School walked on to the Los Angeles Coliseum field to participate in a game that would be considered one of the city’s 100 greatest moments as listed by the Los Angeles Sports Council’s published list.

In front of a crowd of more than 40,000 people, a young Randy Meadows would help lead the Vikings to the school’s only football CIF championship in history. Meadows was a threat for Player of the Year and would go down as one of the best running backs to ever come out of the area.

Flash forward 53 years to Mira Costa High School to a scene somewhat familiar. On a recent foggy evening laced with anticipation, Warren High School was looking to finally get over the hump and advance past the second round of the playoffs. More than 300 Warren fans make the 45 minute drive along the 105 Freeway to watch the Bears and a special running back named Jesse Callier.

Callier already had drawn comparison to Meadows and statistically was having just as good a year as Meadows did in 1956. Warren’s best chance at advancing to the third round of the playoffs was giving the ball to Callier and letting him do his thing. The ball is snapped. The handoff to Callier was clean. Off into the night Callier went.

Both backs were special. Both of them were critical to their team’s success. But which of them is better? They both played in different eras but is it possible to name either one of them the best running back in Downey/Warren history?

We can try by looking deeper and breaking down key criteria: Era, Physical Attributes/Talents and Versatility, Supporting Cast/Intangibles, Statistics, and Opponents. Era

The two eras the two backs played in are very different from each other. The game of football has evolved from a kicker smoking a cigarette on the sidelines then walking on to the field and punting or kicking a field goal, to something of a science, a specific kicker is needed for specific situations.

Meadows played in a much smaller era when it comes to size of the player. The average size of a high school football athlete was much smaller when compared to today. It wasn’t uncommon to see a nose tackle chime in at 5’8” and 140 pounds.

Back then, it wasn’t necessarily a brute force game. It was a very fast-paced, smarter game. Running backs didn’t necessarily run over people in those days, nor did they need to. They could be quick to a hole and speed away. Case and point to Meadows who did just that. Today, Callier plays in a much more physical era. Kids in high school football have sprouted staggeringly. It wouldn’t be uncommon to find a 6’6”, 250-pound behemoth on the opposing team filling up the gaps at the line of scrimmage. Running backs definitely need to be more physical playing in today’s game. If not, they’ll get pancaked and thrown all over the place. Strength and size are now factors in football today. But because of that, the intelligence has started to fade and smash-mouth football has become more common.

But what really sets aside both eras are the rules that are now enforced in the game. Clips still circulate of quarterbacks in the NFL dodging a diving lineman; but what isn’t shown is the hand the lineman reached out with, grabbing the quarterback’s facemask and violently yanking him down to the ground.

Also, helmet-to-helmet contact was not against the rules. Football in the ‘50s and ‘60s was a much more aggressive and free sport to play. There wasn’t much protection for any player in those days so you had to be tough.

Today’s game doesn’t allow you to touch the quarterback after he releases the ball or runs out of bounds. You’re not allowed to touch the facemask of a player, and helmet-to-helmet collisions could get you ejected from a game.

With that said, it’s without a doubt that while it was a smaller generation of players, the ‘50s was a much tougher generation to play in. People were always looking to take your head off. If you weren’t tough enough to take on the dangers, you probably weren’t playing.

Don’t assume present day football is soft though. Getting hit on a regular basis still takes durability and toughness, but Meadows could have easily gotten his head ripped off back then and probably not now. One can assume that he had that in mind and he still succeeded in lofty ways. Advantage Meadows here.

Physical Attributes/Talents and Versatility Meadows was a football-built, 155-pound, good looking man in high school. Callier is a 5’11, 180-pound, physically chiseled specimen of a football player. Times have changed how players approach the game physically. It used to be that eating healthy and practicing all the time would be plenty to keep you in football shape. Today, not so much.

Football and sports in general has become such a science that players are almost groomed to be quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defenders, safeties and other positions.

But first, science is useless unless the right ingredients are mixed. Both players had great football gifts and the way they were developed was quite different. But what did each player do well?

Callier has above average field vision and, according to his head coach Chris Benadom, fantastic improvisation ability.

“He’s good at finding something when there is nothing,” said Benadom. “He always seems to find that crease.”

Not only that, according to Benadom, Callier also has great finishing speed, meaning once he breaks away he’s normally not caught. Callier has only been caught one time when breaking into the secondary of a defense this year.

Callier is also a very physical back that can do a multitude of things. He can run behind a fullback, he can go up the middle and take a defensive line on his own, he can break off to the sidelines with his great speed and turn corners, and he can be used as a slot receiver with his soft hands and be a receiving threat.

But where Callier can sometimes suffer is defensively. Benadom said that if he works hard enough, Callier could be a very good defender. But as it stands, he still has room for improvement.

“He has moments when he can be great (defensively),” Benadom said. “He could be a great defender, but sometimes he lacks concentration.”

Meadows on the other hand was a back that used his smarts and fantastic field vision to get out of the backfield and into the end zone. Former teammates raved about his ability to see the smallest of holes that he would hit with speed allowing him to blow into the end zone.

While Meadows was a smaller runner, he had a quick first step and was able to run circles around defenders pursuing him. He also had great finishing speed that saw few, if any, defenders catch up to keep him from scoring. He was also a tenacious defender according to a few old teammates.

The edge has to go to Callier in this category though. Callier has state-of-the-art strength and speed training facilities available to him. He also has trainers, physical therapists and nutritional diets that make his body more of a sports temple rather than a growing man.

Meadows knew he had to eat right and lifting weights would help performance, but he didn’t have anything close to the specialization that Callier has at his disposal. If Meadows had what Callier has, maybe Meadows beats him out. But he didn’t, so Callier just barely edges him out.

Supporting Cast

A running back can only be as good as his offensive line and other players on the field that are willing to block for him. Also, the running game is opened up even more with a good passing game.

But still, players will sometimes find themselves out on an island alone with no one around to help.

While that may not necessarily have been the case for either back, they both have a supporting cast that can help us gauge what kind of ability they have.

Meadows’ offensive line was a proud bunch that would do anything to help the team win. They would also do anything to see Meadows bust into the secondary and run for days.

“Coach Dick Hill made us believe that if we worked harder than our opponents, we couldn’t be beat,” former teammate Lash Stevenson said in an e-mail discussing Meadows versus Callier. “We became smarter, faster, and tougher than our opponents. Randy had a great supporting group of teammates.”

And that he did, especially after review of the 1956 CIF Championship game where Meadows was actually hurt in the first quarter and was never the same after. A tie game without your best player at 100 percent only means that he had a great cast around him.

Callier’s teammates, specifically his offensive line, has been a revolving door of players for the past three years. Callier’s first chance on the field at the varsity level found him behind a more experienced offensive line full of juniors and seniors. His second year found him behind those same juniors from the year before. This year though found him behind an experienced line full of seniors that played junior varsity the year before.

Warren still doesn’t have the strong passing game that would blow the running game wide open, and the offensive line did an adequate job. But still, Callier had an excellent season and is probably again a lock for all-CIF honors.

With that said, Callier’s supporting cast is not the 1956 championship team from Downey High School. In fact, they are just San Gabriel Valley League champions.

It was tougher from a cast point of view for Callier to perform at his level. Meadows had a great cast that made his job much easier. Callier had some extra work to do. The edge goes to Callier.


Numbers can be deceiving but nevertheless they measure where players stand amongst the rest. Callier had his eye popping statistics, but so did Meadows. But the most jaw dropping statistic between the two is Meadows’ 15.47 yards per carry in 1957.

With a statistic like that, who needs a pass game or additional running back? Just give the ball to Meadows and let him do his thing. He would guarantee a first down every time he touched the ball, he would score on every possession, and he would chew valuable time off the clock.

In 1957, Meadows also rushed for 2,150 yards on only 139 carries. It always seemed that every touch Meadows had resulted in a huge gain. That season, he found the end zone 36 times. What makes that number so special is in the fashion he did it. Out of 36 touchdowns, 21 of them came on runs over 50 yards, meaning that once he was gone, no one was catching him.

But Callier strikes back with his own set of amazing statistics. In his best season to date, 2008, Callier rushed for 2,466 yards in fewer games played than Meadows.

The Bears running back also had 30 touchdowns, just six short of Meadows in fewer games played, but carried the ball a startling 313 times and averaged 7.88 yards per carry.

Callier this year though has improved on yards per carry, upping his number now to 10.63. He scored more than 30 touchdowns this year, despite having his work load cut in half, carrying the ball less than 200 times.

If Callier had as many games played as Meadows, we could be looking at a virtual draw in statistics. But because of that game differential, there’s no real way to tell. So, while both players have shocking statistics, you can’t tell who wins the point. Draw.


Warren played Santa Fe, Downey, Gahr, Vista Murrieta, Lynwood and Dominguez in the regular season this year.

Downey, in 1957, played Fullerton, Long Beach Poly, Long Beach Jordan, Wilson, San Diego and, of course, Anaheim in the CIF Championship game.

When looking at the strength of Warren’s schedule, Santa Fe beat them like a drum last year but fell to the hands of Callier this year in a nail biter. Gahr passed for 380 yards and five touchdowns against Callier’s Bears, but still lost because of a 303 yard, five touchdown performance by the stud running back. Lynwood was supposed to give them competition but was run off the field, and Dominguez, typically a very athletic team, didn’t have the juice to keep up with Warren.

Warren’s only vice this year was Vista Murrieta, a team that was ranked as high as No. 9 in the state. Callier ran for just under 200 yards in the game. The Bears lost the game, but Vista Murrieta without a doubt was the best team they have seen in years.

The schedule Meadows and Downey took on in ’57 consisted of Fullerton, a team that held them to only one touchdown in a 7-0 game; Long Beach Poly, a team that is historically dominating even to this day; Long Beach Jordan, a very tough football school; Wilson, a member of the Moore League that has nothing but fantastic football; San Diego, another state powerhouse; and Anaheim, then regarded as the best program in the area with the reigning player of the year Mickey Flynn.

With Downey and Meadows taking on challenge after challenge that season and winning every game until the fateful CIF championship tie, Downey saw the best the state had to offer. The better opponents faced off against Downey that year making what Meadows did more impressive. Point to Meadows.

After grading all of the criteria listed, it’s very close to impossible to know who the better player is. If you add up all the categories, it comes out to a tie, but it’s not to say that both players are once in a generation type players when it comes to football in Downey.

We will never know who would out perform who because of the era difference. But with that said, we should enjoy the performances that were put on because they are definitely something extraordinarily special.