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OU football: Grant Calcaterra reflects on retirement from football, looks forward to bright future ahead

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Grant Calcaterra

Junior tight end Grant Calcaterra leads the Sooners onto the field before the game against TCU Nov. 23.

Grant Calcaterra couldn't help but pause and take a moment to gather his emotions.

The former Oklahoma tight end, who recently announced his retirement from football due to concussions, was asked just how hard it was to write the letter and film the video he released to Sooner Nation last Thursday.

“It’s been really tough," Calcaterra said, "but, you know, I’ve had a lot of support from my teammates, my family and a lot of people outside of the program. So I’ve been able to keep a positive attitude and a positive outlook on it. But yeah, it’s been tough. I’ve been good, though.”

Calcaterra's decision was as mature as it comes.

"What it really came down to is, 'Do I want to have a bunch of money, possibly, (from) playing football and be 50 years old, but I can’t remember how to brush my teeth?'' Or, 'Cut my losses, pride myself on having a decent career in college and not be a millionaire, but be able to enjoy my family, be able to enjoy my friends?' So, that’s what I choose to do."

Calcaterra spoke to the media Monday for the first time since his retirement. He spoke for over 20 minutes, cracking jokes and shedding tears as he reflected on his football career. You can watch the full interview below.

The Rancho Santa Margarita, California, native played three seasons for the Sooners, catching 41 passes for 637 yards and nine touchdowns. He most notably caught the game-sealing touchdown pass during the 2018 Big 12 Championship. 

Calcaterra's decision to walk away from the game was a shocking one to many Sooner fans, but not for Calcaterra himself. He said Monday that he had been through concussion protocol multiple times throughout his career, including this season in practice after the Kansas game and during last year's spring practice.

"I just started counting up how many it was, and how close together that they were," Calcaterra said. "Those were kind of the biggest things for me, the biggest thing being how close they were together. What makes me more prone to having them? Once I get one, I’m getting another one fairly soon after. So, yeah, at the end of the day weighing the risk versus the reward. I don’t feel like I’d be able to play how I like to play without risking getting hit again."

“When I came back to it after that incident, I just remember sitting on the field kind of like, ‘Man, I’ve had a lot of these things. This might be the last one.’ But, you know, I just went through the process and went and saw different doctors and gathered information and just listened, and that’s kind of the conclusion I had to come to.”

Calcaterra said he met with multiple doctors and former players who had suffered concussions and made his same decision. OU team doctors Scott Anderson and Brock Schnebel were a part of some of the first conversations. 

"Super informational. Scott and Brock, those guys helped me tremendously," Calcaterra said, "They sent me to different specialists to get different opinions, gave me all the resources I needed to make an informed decision. So, you know, shoutout to those guys. It was really good to get as much information as possible. Scott’s a knowledgeable guy. He really helped me out a lot." 

Calcaterra said one of the hardest conversations he had was with coach Lincoln Riley. 

Riley, of course, supported his decision. 

"It was tough. I mean, when I walked in there, he knew exactly what it was about," Calcaterra said. "I told him, thanked him for giving me a great opportunity and helping me become a better player and better person. He told me that I was making the right decision. He told me that if I came into his office and told him I was coming back, he would’ve second-guessed it. He would’ve told me to make sure I’m safe, as any good coach would do.

"He told me he was proud of me, told me he’d do anything he could for me, whether it was down the road with a career path or if I was getting into coaching." 

Calcaterra plans to become a firefighter after college, something he's thought about for a while. 

He wanted to find something as similar to football as possible. 

"I was just kind of thinking of what I love about football," Calcaterra said. "Like I mentioned in (my Twitter video), I love just always being on your toes, being impulsive, being on a team. I love working with people. I love leading by example. I love being a part of something that’s bigger than myself. And I was like, '(Being a firefighter sounds) pretty perfect.'

"And you know, California needs it. It’s always on fire. And people need help, too, so I’d be honored to be that kind of guy."

Saturday, Calcaterra was a part of Oklahoma's senior night as he was honored before Sooner Nation one last time. When the team ran out of the tunnel for the final time, he was the one leading the charge. 

It's a moment he and Sooner Nation won't soon forget. 

"I had never done that. The only reason I did that was because I never did that here," Calcaterra said. "I did it in high school a few times when I was a captain or whatever, but I’d never done it for a home game or any game in college, so I was just kind of like, ‘Screw it. Might as well.’"

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I joined The Daily in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore. I've covered the soccer team, both men's and women's basketball, as well as the football team for the past two years. I have been the sports editor since spring 2018.

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