Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun visits Roseburg, the town where he grew up

July 18, 2017

With fall practice for Division I college football teams quickly approaching, Troy Calhoun is squeezing in a trip to Roseburg.

The 50-year-old Air Force Academy head football coach, accompanied by his daughter, Amelia, is relishing time with family and friends. Calhoun grew up in Roseburg and graduated from Roseburg High School in 1985.

His mother, Joan Leslie, still resides in Roseburg.

“I believe this is the first time in seven years we’ve been back here,” Calhoun said Sunday night. “Just splendid. We’ll see how much we can pack in when it comes to fishing and golf, and seeing friends. It’s unbelievable here (weather-wise), especially in the month of July.”

Calhoun — who was a quarterback at RHS and Air Force — is entering his 11th season with the Falcons. He’s compiled a 77-53 record at Air Force, including nine bowl game appearances.

“It’s a remarkable school (north of Colorado Springs, Colorado) with quite a purpose,” Calhoun said. “And yet you realize the sheer difficulty of which you’re involved. Whether it’s the mission of the academy to develop, and see a 17- or 18-year-old really change as a young man or young woman, to be an officer and leader for our country when they’re 22 years old — if they’re able to graduate from there.

“With the football part, there’s probably not a more rugged, harder course maybe in all of college sports when it comes to trying to build a program. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have a tremendous group of coaches and some quality young people. We’ll see as we head down the road.”

Air Force enjoyed a very successful football season in 2016, finishing 10-3 overall and defeating South Alabama 45-21 in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl.

The Falcons, who ranked third nationally in rushing with 317.4 yards a game, won their final six contests. They won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with victories over Army and Navy.

“(The 2017 season) will be as big of a challenge as we’ve had thus far,” Calhoun said. “An extremely stout schedule. Defensively, we’ll have to replace 10 of 11 starters. Offensively, we have to replace a tailback who rushed for over 3,000 yards the last three years, probably the most prolific wide receiver in the history of the academy, and two excellent fullbacks.

“I had somebody share with me we’re 129th in returning tackles (defensively out of 130 teams). We’re starting anew as much as you can. We have a pretty steep climb ahead of us, but look forward to digging in and going to work.”

Air Force opens its season Sept. 2 at home with a nonconference game against VMI, then travels to Michigan Sept. 16. The Falcons open Mountain West Conference play Sept. 23 at home against San Diego State.

In addition to 13-year-old Amelia, Calhoun and his wife, Amanda, also have a son, 15-year-old Tyler, who plays football and basketball.

“We’re lucky to live where we do,” Calhoun said. “Really good schools where public education means something. Activities for young people. A plethora of different opportunities to explore as far as living in Colorado.”

Former Roseburg football coach Thurman Bell was among a group of friends who fished with Calhoun Sunday and golfed with him Monday. Calhoun played for Bell — who retired as the Indians’ coach in 2015 after 45 years, 331 wins (second on the state’s all-time high school list) and four big-school state championships — from 1982-84.

“It was a great day on the Umpqua River,” Calhoun said. “We caught over 100 fish. I was lucky because the guy I sat aside (Bell) led the train. I don’t know if he’s ever been asked so many questions about football.”

Bell, 74, didn’t mind.

“It’s just fun talking football,” Bell said. “Neither of us know doggone nothing about fishing, but we had a great time and caught fish.”

Bell has had many former players and assistants go on to become head coaches, but none have advanced further than Calhoun, who coached in the NFL before landing the Air Force head post in 2007.

Calhoun got his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Air Force, then was an assistant at Ohio University and Wake Forest. He spent three seasons with the Denver Broncos (2003-05), and served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Houston Texans for one year (2006).

“I just knew Troy was going to be successful, no matter what he did,” Bell said. “He was just like having another coach on the field. He may not have been the most talented quarterback I’ve ever coached at Roseburg, but was far and away mentally the most astute. He was on top of it right away and I knew he’d make a great coach some day.

“Not one bit,” Bell added, when asked if Calhoun has changed much since his teenage days. “He’s the same extremely humble guy. You wouldn’t know tonight visiting with him he’s a head coach of a Division I football school. Recruiting is the name of the game in Division I football ... he doesn’t have the easiest place to recruit, but has kids who are very dedicated and intelligent and does a great job with them.”

Calhoun was a three-sport athlete at RHS, competing in football, basketball and baseball. He was a first-team All-Southern Oregon Conference signal-caller for the fifth-ranked Tribe as a senior, passing for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns. Calhoun made first-team all-conference as a second baseman in baseball.

“Great memories all the way through (high school),” he said. “The friendships you’re able to make during those years and some terrific teams. Guys who were really capable athletes. The pride you learned to develop in a program under Thurman’s leadership, knowing what true work ethic was all about.”