GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Jim McElwain didn’t hesitate when asked if troubled receiver Antonio Callaway is running out of chances following his third off-the-field issue in the last 20 months.
“Absolutely,” McElwain said on Monday. “The one thing I will do is I’ll continue to help. I’ll continue to be there. I’ll continue to support. But obviously the consequences, you make your own bed, man.”
Callaway was one of seven Florida players suspended Sunday from team activities and the season opener against Michigan. The players reportedly purchased items at the campus bookstore with their student identification cards, which didn’t have sufficient funds for the transactions, and later sold the items for cash. Keivonnis Davis, Richerd Desir-Jones, James Houston, Ventrell Miller, Jordan Smith and Kadeem Telfort also were suspended for their roles in the scheme.
McElwain said he was “very disappointed” with the players’ decisions, adding that paying restitution would be part of the reinstatement process.
“Obviously any time there’s choices made, you got to make up for whatever happened,” McElwain said. “These guys are doing that.”
Callaway’s involvement might be the most alarming given his recent stumbles.
The junior from Miami was cited for marijuana possession in May while he was a passenger in a car with Kendrick Williams, a 40-year-old Gainesville man with a history of criminal charges. Callaway pleaded no contest to possession of drug paraphernalia last month and was fined $301.
McElwain said Callaway had been making progress — until this latest incident.
“I’m telling you, man, when you talk about the disappointment piece I saw these strides, right, and then sometimes you take a step back,” McElwain said. “Yet I’m sure he’s not the only that’s done that, and yet it’s my responsibility to keep teaching.”
Callaway also was accused of sexual assault in January 2016, prompting the university to suspend him for the spring semester while the incident was investigated. Callaway eventually was found not responsible during a student code of conduct hearing, but acknowledged under oath that he was high on marijuana at the time of the alleged assault.
There’s little doubt that Callaway’s talent has kept him on the team through all his troubles. The team’s top playmaker has 89 receptions for 1,399 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons. He also has returned three kicks for scores, two on punts and another on a kickoff.
McElwain said Callaway was internally disciplined following the marijuana citation this spring and now has been publicly punished, albeit it only for one game.
McElwain said suspending Callaway and the others for the Sept. 2 opener was a significant penalty because of the venue.
“It’s interesting when you think about even my disappointment … and yet it’s guys that made choices and what do you do? You take something away that really means something to them,” McElwain said. “In this case, their ability to not be around the team. They’re obviously not going to be able to play in one of the great places on national television.
“Those are things that hurt. … That’s an important lesson.”