Nothing flashy, just dependable. That was Don Calhoun.
From his days at Wichita North High School, to his final professional game, coaches and teammates could count on Calhoun.
In nine seasons in the NFL, Calhoun never missed a game. When you consider he carried the ball 860 times – and that doesn’t include pass receptions or kickoff returns – it is remarkable he was never missed one game because of injuries.
Durable? Yes. Tough? You bet.
Calhoun, a 6-foot, 213-pound fullback, was one of the best running backs in Kansas State University history, even though he played at a time when the Wildcats were known more for their passing attack rather than their running game.
While at Kansas State, Calhoun led the Wildcats in rushing during his junior season in 1973 and finished his career ranked No. 4 on the all-time K-State rushing chart. He was drafted in the 10th round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Toughness and durability were two of Calhoun’s best traits and he could appreciate a good solid hit, whether he was doing the hitting or the one getting hit.
When asked what his most memorable moment was in college, Calhoun said, “being blind-sided and knocked off my feet while pursuing a safety who had intercepted a pass on the opposite side of the field.”
Calhoun quickly made an impression with the Bills despite being a rookie and a low draft selection. He started the first game of the 1974 season against the New York Jets and played in all 14 games for the Bills and the first five in 1975 before being traded to the New England Patriots.
One week after being traded, Calhoun enjoyed the satisfaction of catching a 62-yard pass against the Bills. The ball was thrown by former K-State teammate, and fellow Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Steve Grogan.
The following season, Calhoun was thrust into the starting lineup late in the season after an injury to Sam Cunningham. He responded by rushing for over 100 yards in four consecutive games to help lead the Patriots into the playoffs.
Calhoun’s best year was in 1980 with the Patriots when he rushed for 787 yards and scored nine touchdowns from his fullback position. During his NFL career, Calhoun ran the ball 860 times for 3,559 yards and scored 23 touchdowns plus caught 86 passes for two more scores. He played one season for the New Jersey Generals in the United States Football League in 1984.
Calhoun attended Wichita North High School and helped the Redskins to a berth in the 1969 state championship game – the first year for the playoffs - and was a consensus all-state selection for North High.
Don continues to live in Wichita with his wife Donna and their seven children – four boys and three girls.