CLEARWATER, Fla. — Florida football coach Jim McElwain didn’t wait for the question to come Thursday evening while meeting with reporters during another stop on his spring speaking tour.
The news had come out earlier in the day that star junior wide receiver Antonio Callaway had been cited for possession of marijuana after a traffic stop in Gainesville early on the morning of May 13.
McElwain knew the questions were going to come before his visit with the Pinellas County Gator Club inside the Kapok Special Events Center and addressed the matter on his own, though he wouldn’t reveal what if any discipline Callaway might face.
“I’m just, I’m really disappointed, and I’m aware of it and everything and we’ll handle it accordingly,” McElwain said. “But, you know, just really disappointed. And yet, at the same time, there’s another opportunity to learn, there’s another opportunity to educate and, like I said, we’ll get it handled.”
McElwain wouldn’t say if any potential discipline from the incident could jeopardize Callaway’s status for Florida’s much-anticipated season-opener against Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 2.
Callaway is the Gators’ top offensive play-maker after totaling 89 catches for 1,399 yards and 7 touchdowns receiving over his first two seasons. He also scored on a return of an onside kickoff last season and had 2 punt return touchdowns in 2015.
“We’ll get everything handled. I’m just really disappointed,” McElwain reiterated. “And it’s one of those things because these guys, they’re truly like my kids. And those are the things that we constantly, situations that come up that we constantly talk (about), and yet at the same time there’s choices. Like I said, I’m just really disappointed.”
This wasn’t the first time Callaway has run into trouble during his time at Florida.
He was the focus of a Title IX investigation last year in an alleged sexual assault case before ultimately being found not responsible. During the proceedings of the case, Callaway admitted to using marijuana on the night in question.
Callaway was suspended as a consequence of that matter and not allowed to practice with the team that spring. He returned to campus to resume taking classes in June and went through fall camp with the team before going on to lead the Gators with 54 catches for 721 yards and 3 touchdowns last season.
Perhaps most concerning in this latest matter is the company Callaway was keeping on the night of the citation. He was stopped in the vehicle with a 40-year-old male named Kendrick Williams, who has a lengthy history of running afoul of the law.
According to the report provided by the Gainesville Police Department, Callaway was seated in the rear driver’s side of a black Mercedes SUV stopped for a seatbelt violation at 12:40 a.m. The officer then “smelled fresh cannabis,” asked Callaway to step out of the vehicle and retrieved a baggie of cannabis from his pants that weighed approximately 7.0 grams.
Williams was seated in the rear passenger’s side and also was patted down outside the vehicle and told the officer “he had left his cannabis under the driver seat earlier while he was using the SUV.” The officer found another baggie containing 5.4 grams of cannabis under the seat.
Both Callaway and Williams admitted to owning the marijuana.
“It’s interesting. As I said, it’s just like your own kids. You talk to them about the people that they’re hanging out with, the people that they’re around,” McElwain said. “You know, it’s not something that you probably want associated with your brand, right? But flip side of that, like I said, it’s something that we’re aware of and we’re getting it handled.”
Callaway had talked prior to Florida’s Outback Bowl win over Iowa about his motivation to be an even greater contributor in 2017, saying then, “I won’t allow myself to fall shorter.”
McElwain was asked what growth he felt he had seen in Callaway prior to this incident.
“Tons of it. And yet he’s still growing. You have bumps in the road as you go through life, and the thing is what you learn from those bumps,” he said. “It’s just refocus, recenter. He’d been doing great.”