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Quarterback Finds Home At Middlebury

McCallum Foote reached a long-sought milestone this summer that had only a tangential connection to his skills as a record-setting quarterback for the Middlebury College football team. It took 20 years, a dedicated diet and countless hours in the weight room, but Foote now officially weighs more than 200 pounds.

“That was really a proud moment – I’ve been working a long time for that,” said Foote, a 6-2, 201-pound senior who played at 187 pounds last season. “When I got on the scale I actually took a picture and sent it to my teammates, saying ‘Finally!’ “

It is a measure of just how successful Foote has been in his two-plus years with the Panthers that gaining weight is about all that he has left to accomplish. After guiding Middlebury to a 27-5 opening victory over Bowdoin last weekend, he steps in at home against Colby on Saturday as a first team All-American and a legitimate candidate for the NCAA Division III national player of the year.

Foote, who attended Noble and Greenough prep school in Dedham, Mass., began his college career at Division I Brown. He enjoyed the football experience in Providence, but was uncomfortable with the larger academic environment.

A prep school teammate recruited him for Middlebury and Foote has been re-writing the record book ever since. He started seven of eight games as a sophomore (missing one with injury) and led the Panthers to a 4-4 record by engineering two last-second, game-winning drives.

Last fall, bolstered by a stout offensive line and a fleet set of senior receivers, Foote completed 256 of 452 passes for 2,897 yards and 31 touchdowns in Middlebury’s hurry-up offense. The bottom line was a 7-1 record that made Foote the only junior finalist for national player of the year and the New England Small College Athletic Conference offensive player of the year.

“I try not to think about (the accolades) because all of it based off last season and it was very much a team recognition,” Foote said. “It’s about winning games. I like to think of myself as a facilitator in our offense. My job is to get the ball to the playmakers and let them do the hard work.”

Take it from head coach Bob Ritter, there is a lot more to Foote than that.

“Mac is really grounded and his goals are almost exclusively centered around what we do as a team,” Ritter said. “I have no worries about expectations on him because he knows better than anyone that when you get recognition at the quarterback position, that doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”

Middlebury recruits heavily in the Independent School League of which Noble and Greenough is a member, but Ritter knew Foote had his eye on the Ivy League. And, the Panthers were set at quarterback with four-year starter Donald McKillop, who still holds the school marks for most passing attempts, most completions, and most yards.

But McKillop graduated in 2010 and when Foote arrived that August, opportunity beckoned.

“It was clear that he was a very knowledgeable, understood defenses, understood offenses and was a great decision-maker on top of being a talent,” Ritter said. “But it was also obvious that Mac was going to be a different quarterback than McKillop was. Mac is a little more of a pocket passer and a little better on the deep ball.

“The analogy I use all the time is McCallum is a little bit more (Tom) Brady and McKillop was a little more (Drew) Brees.”

Foote, who is named after his maiden grandmother, comes from a football family – both his father and older brother are coaches. Many of his family attended Amherst College, one of Middlebury’s NESCAC archrivals.

“My reason to leave Brown was mostly an academic one, to be honest,” Foote said. “The classes were so big and I really didn’t get to know any of my professors very well.  I knew a place like Middlebury would be good for me and I have been comfortable with my decision from the start.”

Foote threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Bowdoin, completing 36 of 59 passes. But there were also a pair of interceptions, mistakes that are at the forefront of his focus this fall.

“You can always get better with your decision-making,” he said.” Maybe taking my check-downs a little; more instead of trying to force the ball down the field. I am always looking to cut down interceptions and looking to increase the completion rate.”

One of Foote’s greatest strengths is hidden from casual glance.

“He throws a really catchable ball,” said senior wide receiver Brendan Rankowitz. “A lot of quarterbacks have the arm, but it’s tough to have the finesse. He can throw it in there when he needs to but he also has the touch to just lay it out there for you.”

Many of the key pieces to last year’s success have graduated and Foote is well aware that reaching last season’s levels might not happen. Coach Ritter isn’t worried,

“People know Mac mostly because he’s a outstanding football player but he’s not doing it for the notoriety,” Ritter said. “He is a quintessential Middlebury student-athlete who has really embraced the community, the town and the college which is why he excels everywhere.”

Andy Gardiner is a former sports writer for USA Today and the Burlington Free Press, who lives in Burlington.
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