It wasn't long ago that Francis Kallon Jr., a Sierra Leonian native who lived in London until two years ago, didn't even really know what football was. In fact, when he heard the word football, he only thought of soccer (he was in London, after all).
Now, he's a much ballyhooed Georgia Tech recruit, has emerged as a potential future star along the defensive line or at linebacker in college, and has helped his family get behind a sport that was still completely foreign to all of them until they met up with Francis Kallon Sr. in Georgia.
"Sometimes it's like, 'wow!'' Kallon Sr. told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his son's hidden talent. "It's like a miracle. We don't know what to do but praise God."
These days Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is thanking anyone who will listen that Kallon Jr. deciding to attend Georgia Tech ahead of higher profile collegiate programs. The athletic big man famously received more than 10 scholarship offers before he had even played a game, thanks to overwhelmingly dominant performances in spring football practice.
In fact, Kallon Jr. almost never got a chance to play football at all. After a smooth transition to basketball in the States -- Kallon had been the captain of the basketball team at his school in London -- the defensive standout had no particular interest in playing American football. Yet Central Gwinnett (Ga.) High football coach Todd Wofford finally won him over with a pitch that the coach would never bug the rising senior about football again if he came out, tried it and dd he didn't like it.
Kallon Jr. still didn't have a clear path to the football field, either. According to the Journal-Constitution, Kallon's parents didn't want him playing football because they feared the time commitment would take him away from his academic studies. A serious student, Kallon Jr. holds a 3.6 GPA and rarely misses out on an A on his report cards.
Finally, after some coaxing, Kallon's parents agreed to let him play if he could earn straight A's AND score better than a 1200 on his first try at the SAT. The first part of the equation was routine … and it turns out the second part was even easier; Kallon Jr. scored a 1530.
Months later, that decision looks like a smart one. The Sierra Leonian teenager continues to bring home good grades, but now he's earning them on both school assignments and taped review of his football performances. In his first ever football game, Kallon Jr. registered 10 tackles. Four of those stops qualified as tackles for a loss. Through four games he already had five sacks and three blocked kicks.
Plenty of people noticed those stats, and Kallon's impressive body of work as well. After his second game, Kallon was named as the first TD Club of Atlanta Lineman of the Week of the 2011 season. He had only played in two games, and already Kallon had garnered one of the top awards available in the Atlanta area.
And while other top notch academic institutions like Stanford, Duke and Vanderbilt may hope that Kallon Jr. might stray from his commitment to nearby Georgia Tech, the player himself is focused on the field, something his coach was already saying would yield tremendous results before his prodigy had even stepped on a field.
"I've never seen anything like it," Wofford told Rivals.com in June. "I had no idea this would happen. I was hoping this big kid could do anything for me."