“You can’t teach that kind of speed,” said Borderite football coach Rick Vanderyacht in speaking about senior Caleb Statham, a consensus all-state first team pick at running back this year. Statham’s 4.4 speed in the 40 yard dash is the second fastest in school history, exceeded only by baseball player and 1986 Blaine graduate Brad Wolten’s 4.3 and faster than many now playing in the pro ranks.
Of course, speed isn’t everything, but it helps. Statham, who pretty much came out of nowhere last year to dominate the league in this, his senior year, is the 31st Blaine high school athlete to be named to an all-state team of some kind, the seventh in football. The string goes back 81 years to basketball player Ted Hanson, Blaine class of 1929, who played in the days when each basket was followed by a jump ball at center court to put the ball back in play.
For some years the all-state teams were named only from players who competed at state tournaments. That’s how basketball player Richard “Handshake” Hanson, who used to playfully bait the fans when Blaine played Lynden, made all-state in 1963 and 1964.
In recent years the team has been voted in by Associated Press sportswriters from players all over the state regardless of whether or not their teams made the post-season. Plus, Blaine has moved into a series of tougher league setups as well and is now the smallest 2A school in the league. Making the all-state team has therefore gotten tougher.
Statham, furthermore, came into the season with just four years experience on the gridiron and none as a varsity starter. Unlike some of this year’s crop of talented seniors who have played together since they were in diapers, Statham’s been playing football only since the eighth grade, a year he seldom got into the games. The next two years he played behind Ben Bohnson and Casey McCabe, who along with the phenomenal Brad Scheib (BHS 2000) are the only running backs who have more total career yardage than Statham (his 8.03 yards per carry exceeds them all).
Headstrong, confident and sure of himself, Statham made good use of his main chance this season. He spent more time in the weight room, giving himself a body that does to opposing tacklers what a bowling ball does to pins.
“Mr. Grambo taught me how to sprint,” Statham said, referring to one of his favorite teachers. Where he once used to try to do it all with blazing speed, he learned how to use his “soccer vision” to look for the open hole and time his spurts to do the most damage.
In the Lynden game last year he finished the first quarter with the longest run from scrimmage possible, 99 yards, blowing by vaunted Lynden safety (and WSU recruit) Brady Bomber like a Ferrari zipping past a scrubby hitchhiker. Bomber turned but even though he had an angle on Statham he couldn’t catch him. No one could this year, and even if they did he bounced off most of them.
Statham credits his line, of course, for opening holes big enough to let him jet away like an F-16 behind big brawny bruisers like Travis Pederson and Joel Garza.
But things went sideways just before the half in that same game when Statham met a Lynden lineman helmet to helmet, the noise sounding like two rams pounding heads in the Sierras.
He hit so hard he was flipped over backwards and thumped his bare noggin on the turf, his helmet broken so badly it came off and went to pieces, having to be replaced. The mild concussion he received was enough to take him out of the game, his finest run and his darkest hour just eight minutes apart on the same night.
But he came back after that to finish the year leading the conference in rushing with a total of 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns in 11 games for the 7-4 Borderites. The 5'11'' 180-pound back has been courted by a range of schools, from Division III PLU to the University of Montana and even division I Washington State University. He’s been coached and trained by pro football players Alex Bannister (Seahawks) and Calvin McCarty (Edmonton Eskimos).
“I want to play college ball,” Statham said, “but mostly I want an education. I’m still looking around.”
Whoever ends up with Caleb Statham in their backfield will have some exciting Saturdays in their future as he knows only one direction, forward, and only one speed: fast. Very fast.