Batie overcomes odds to become a starBy JOSHUA CAMPBELL,
Caleb Batie has had to scratch, claw and battle since the moment he graduated from West Marion to be noticed. Without having any offers coming out of high school, Batie walked on at Pearl River Community College and redshirted as a freshman.
But he showed in practice that he was worthy of legitimate consideration, and the Wildcats’ coaching staff rewarded him with a scholarship last December.
“They didn’t even tell me. That Christmas break I got sent my FAFSA that helps pay for my school, and the scholarship money just got sent straight to my house as a refund. It was like $3,000,” he said. “I called the coaches because I thought it was a mistake. They told me it wasn’t a mistake. So that’s how I knew — a $3,000 check.”
Going into his redshirt freshman season, though, he was still buried on the depth chart and only played on special teams in the season opener against Northeast Mississippi Community College. The following week against Northwest Mississippi CC, he got his shot and the made the most of it, rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
“During the second game at halftime, they said I was going to get a carry. I broke (a run) and just kept breaking and started producing,” he said. “Then I took over the job by the third game.”
In that third game of the season, the Wildcats lit up the scoreboard in a 59-40 win over East Central, thanks in large part to 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns by Batie. He then went on a spree of great performances — rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries against Hinds CC, 142 yards at Itawamba CC, 80 yards against Jones County Junior College and 125 yards against Mississippi Gulf Coast CC. For the season, Batie ran for 723 yards and four touchdowns on 110 carries (6.6 yards per carry).
While he ended up dominating nearly every game he played in for the Wildcats this season, it was an arduous road for Batie.
“It was different because I’ve been pretty good in football since I can remember,” he said. “Coming from (West Marion) and being the guy to going to (PRCC) where nobody knows you and the coaches not really talking to you, I just kept my head down and worked. When you mess up, they get on you a little bit more because you’re a walk-on and not a scholarship guy, but you have to have thick skin and work through it.”
Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Terrence Metcalf, who played seven years for the Chicago Bears after an All-American career at Ole Miss, loved Batie’s character since he arrived on the Poplarville campus.
“He came in and just worked his butt off. He’s always about his business, always on time and does things the right way,” Metcalf said. “He’s not a vocal guy, but he led by example.”
Batie felt like he belonged on the practice field, but he needed to prove himself under the lights on Thursday nights.
“I felt like I could play (at the collegiate level) from all the practices and scrimmages, but game wise that’s a different story,” he said. “The first drive, I broke two or three times. The second drive, I scored and that’s when I knew I could not only play but I can dominate. That’s been my goal since then — just dominate.”
It’s commonplace for athletes to go through rough patches and Batie is no different. But a pair of coaches saw something in a walk-on running back that others missed.
“Coach Metcalf and coach (Matt) Monacelli, they’ve stuck with me since my first year walking on. When I kind of got down on myself, they saw something in me and redshirted me,” he said. “They’ve believed in me the whole time. When I got the opportunity to start producing, a lot of the other coaches were surprised. But I knew (Metcalf and Monacelli) believed in me the whole time.”
Metcalf, who said Batie is more of a power back that always gets the extra yards and was exactly the type of running back the Wildcats needed in 2017, agreed that Batie’s success was far from a surprise to those who saw him on the practice field during his redshirt season.
“It didn’t (come as a surprise) to the coaches who were here with him through the first year he was here. He did the exact same things in practice,” Metcalf said. “He carried himself like a professional and did everything that was asked of him even when he was on the scout team.”
There were moments throughout the season that stand out to Batie — his first touchdown, beating Mississippi Gulf Coast for the first time in 10 years and beating Copiah-Lincoln CC to secure the Wildcats’ first winning season since 2014 — but it’s his story he hopes has the biggest impact going forward.
“I think (West Marion) played a real big part, and I think that’s why I’m still playing. If I was just playing for myself, I would’ve probably quit. The price of walking on is tough. I just want to give back to the community in any way I can,” he said. “If I can walk on, hopefully younger kids will see there’s nothing wrong with walking on. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in, you can always keep playing.”
Batie currently has offers from Kentucky Wesleyan College and Northeastern State University (Okla.) and has interest from Mississippi College, University of Jamestown (N.D.) and Shorter University (Ga.).
“I’ve been talking to about five D-2 schools but not many D-1 schools yet. I’m just going to wait until December and see how that goes. If I don’t get what I want or what I need, I can always come back for another year,” he said. “If I get the opportunity, I’m going to go ahead and go to a four-year (school), so I’ll have three years there. Wherever I go, I’ll be going there to take over and be the starter.”
When he does make that decision on where to continue his education and football career, Batie has only a few goals in mind.
“Wherever I go, I just want to help them win first of all,” he concluded. “Individually, I want to hold records at some school. Just keep producing and keep working hard — I believe everything will take care of itself.”
Pictured Above: Caleb Batie runs away from the Northwest Mississippi CC defense. | Photo by PRCC Sports Information