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New Tennessee Titans coach Brian Callahan always 'believed he would get to this point, and nothing was going to stop him'

As a young California player at De La Salle high school and coach at Serra, 'his knowledge and grasp for the game was next level'

Updated Wednesday, 9/24/2024, 7:30 a.m.
As a backup to a future NFL quarterback at De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), Brian Callahan rarely saw the bright lights of Friday night or the fiercest faces of competition.  

Except perhaps at practice or in blowout wins, which there were many during those days in the early 2000s when he was part of two teams that contributed to a national record 151-game win streak and were awarded mythical national titles. 

"He backed up Matt Gutierrez his entire career but never complained once — never whined or considered transferring, even though he was really good," said De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh. "He just found an incredible place on the team.

"He was always an incredible student of the game. His knowledge and grasp for the game was next level. It was very clear what his path would be." 

But a NFL head coach? Before the age of 40?  

Alumbaugh and Serra-San Mateo high school coach Patrick Walsh said Monday night there was never a doubt that Callahan would reach the football coaching pinnacle. Even at 39.  

Multiple outlets reported Monday that Callahan, the offensive coordinator for the NFL Bengals and son of former NFL and college coach Bill Callahan, would be the new head coach for the Tennessee Titans. On Wednesday, they made it official

His reputation for mentoring, developing and furthering quarterback play not only with his current pupil Joe Burrow, but before him, with Derek Carr in Oakland, Matthew Stafford in Detroit and Peyton Manning in Denver, helped land him one of 32 coveted head posts.   

Walsh, a De La Salle graduate, gave Callahan his first paid job as the offensive coordinator on Serra's freshman team in 2008. He quickly elevating him to varsity the next season.  

Quicker than that, the Denver Broncos snapped up Callahan in 2010 and signed him on a two-year deal. Walsh, who actually coached Callahan at De La Salle before coming to Serra, has remained very close with his former pupil. In 2014 when Callahan was still with the Broncos, he flew Walsh and his wife Lindsay to Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey. 

"He brought a wealth of knowledge to our program, but due to his ridiculous coaching talent he clearly was not a fit for us at Serra," Walsh joked in a text. "He was always destined for the NFL and to be an NFL head coach. 

"I still give him a bunch of crap though for leaving us to be the quarterback coach for the Broncos. How could anyone do that?" 

At the time of his unprecedented meteoric rise from freshman high school to the NFL in two seasons, Callahan said in 2010 that the move was "bittersweet."

"I leave tomorrow, which is so sad because I love it here at Serra," he said at the time. "But it's a dream come true for me. I'm in shock but I'm elated. ... It is bittersweet because of the wonderful people I will be leaving here at school. Serra has set the foundation for my professional life and I couldn't be prouder to say my first job was at Serra High School." 

That was 14 years ago. 

Now weathered, toughened and experienced, Callahan is well aware of the enormous pressures on head NFL coaches. He certainly witnessed it with his father.  

Walsh believes the young Callahan has "street cred" because of his previous work with some of the game's great quarterbacks over the last decade-plus.  

"But what he has that will help him the most is belief in himself," Walsh said. "Brian always believed he would get to this point, and nothing was going to stop him. He is ready and he will deliver for the city of Nashville." 

Alumbaugh and Walsh, good friends themselves, both said they are happy and full of pride that Callahan scored one of the game's elite posts. Besides a work ethic, each described a personal connection Callahan can make with NFL players that will lead to success. 

"What makes Brian unique is his ability to get into the hearts of his players," Walsh said. "He builds a bond that is the foundation of trust. (He) has the innate and rare trait to make all of his players feel like his is the coach that can help them grow and become great players." 

Said Alumbaugh: "He's grinded his way through the ranks and I think players respond to that." 

On Wdnesday, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan (left) was officially named head coach of the Tennessee Titans.   

On Wdnesday, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan (left) was officially named head coach of the Tennessee Titans.