August 10, 2011

Meet the four halves of Calvin McCarty (yes, four)

August 10, 2011

Rose Mary Phillip


Eleven-year-old Calvin McCarty punched a kid in the face on his third day at Bear Creek Elementary School. Hard.
The kid used a racial slur to get the future Eskimo running back to talk so he could laugh at his accent. McCarty had just moved to Surrey, BC, from Muskogee, Oklahoma, so his twang made him an easy school-yard target. On top of that, he was also the only black kid in class. Well, half black. 

McCarty grew up in Oklahoma and British Columbia.

McCarty was born to a Caucasian mother, Jackie, and an African-American father, Orlando, on Nov. 2, 1984. At the time, interracial dating was taboo. So much so that as recently as 1967, 38 states still had laws banning interracial marriage.

Clearly, we’ve made progress.

Being biracial and having dual citizenship is not unique in the Eskimo locker room. Slotback Jason Barnes is half Italian/half African-American, defensive back Hugo Lopez  was born in Nicaragua and spent the better part of his teenage years in the U.S. and quarterback Ricky Ray is half man/half amazing. 

But back to McCarty.

His dad was a weapons specialist in the U.S. Army who eventually settled in the mostly white city of Surrey and McCarty stayed with his mother in their mostly black community in Muskogee.
“She never played the race card with me,” says McCarty who looks more like her than he does his father – just a bit tanned or “yellow” as the other kids called him. Jackie didn’t pressure her son to identify with just one race, a common challenge for biracial kids. Still, she wanted him to feel connected to his African-American heritage in the absence of his father. “My mom did a lot for me handling that. I seen my grandparents a lot and they’re black.”

When McCarty was in grade six, Jackie wasn’t able to financially care for both him and his sister, Tiffany. That’s when he headed north to live with his dad and step-mom.
“One of the big changes for me coming up was I definitely was not being used to seeing so many different kinds of people,” says McCarty of the culture shock. Overnight, he went from being the lightest face in class to the darkest.
“It was kind of tough being mixed first and then being an American in Canada. I got made fun of a lot, says McCarty. “When I would go back to Oklahoma for the summer, people would say I sound white or more proper. It’s not as big to me now, but I used to try and fit in.”
When high school rolled around, the number of black kids in his class quadrupled to a whopping four. By then, it didn’t matter. He was engrossed in sports and that allowed him to connect with all types of people.

In his senior year, McCarty was named Provincial Player of the Year and set a school record of 84 touchdowns. He lettered in both football and basketball and also played baseball.

He went on to Boise State before transferring to Reedly College and finally Western Washington University.  There he would start in the first seven games before suffering a season-ending foot fracture. A minor set back. He later became second-team North Central Conference All-Star and ranked fifth among NCC rushing leaders with 492 yards and five touchdowns on 130 carries. He also caught 30 passes for 278 yards,

In 2007, McCarty was drafted by Edmonton in the fourth round of the CFL Canadian Draft (27th overall). In the years since, he earned CFL Canadian Player of the Week honours three times and Player of the Month once.

Last season, he played 15 games (six starts), recording 62 carries for 287 yards and three touchdowns. He also made 36 catches for 278 yards and two touchdowns. His solid game play during the frustrating season made him Edmonton’s nominee for the CFL Most Outstanding Canadian Player.

In the still young 2011 season, he has already tallied up six games (four starts), 23 carries for 85 yards and six catches for 52 yards. He also has two special teams tackles. The kid with the funny accent is ready to make his mark as a stand out running back on a team chock full of stand out running backs.