Getting in Position: When Healthy, UW's Calvert Plays Anywhere

Dan Raley

He wears a quarterback jersey number, played that position for one of California's most prominent high school programs and was captured on video throwing a football before the Las Vegas Bowl. 

Josh Calvert, however, is a linebacker through and through.

Had he not injured a knee that required surgery, Calvert was on course to show off his ample defensive abilities for the University of Washington football team as a freshman, helping shore up a position area that needed serious help.

"I think he was on the right track," Husky linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. "He had a really good chance to play on special teams. A real physical kid. A two-way player."

Yet very few do it the way Calvert did at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, northwest of Los Angeles. One minute he was lobbing touch passes into the flat, the next he was crashing hard into opposing running backs and receivers. 

His high school coaches couldn't restrict his play because of his competitiveness. He insisted on being the quarterback on each side of the ball. People labeled him another Tim Tebow.

"It's so much fun," Calvert told the Los Angeles Times about playing quarterback. "For me, it's not a stressful thing, it's relaxing. You get to go out and have fun at that position."

In that same discussion, the 6-foot-2, 218-pound athlete made sure to add this disclaimer, "I like to give the hit, not take them."

This is another in a series of profiles on prospective UW football starters. While spring practice was canceled because of the pandemic, Husky Maven/Sports Illustrated continues to provide uninterrupted coverage.

Calvert is the middle brother of three, all linebackers, each highly skilled at the position, curly-haired bruisers one and all. Bo is a sophomore who plays for UCLA and will compete for a starting job once play resumes. Ethan is a senior at Oaks Christian who might be the best of this threesome and is entertaining 20 college offers, including Washington and UCLA.

Put them together and sometimes things get out of hand. They broke bones and  bleed profusely. There were continual fights in the living room.

Josh recounted one instance in which Bo threw a ball that hit Josh in the face. Josh still swung at it with a bat and hit Ethan in the face, breaking his nose. 

"Blood was all over the place," the middle Calvert said.

A four-star recruit, he chose the Huskies over UCLA and Michigan State. Seeking immediate playing time, he enrolled early and took part in spring drills last year. He went down with his knee injury in the Huskies' fall camp. 

UW coaches were enamored with his wide-ranging athleticism. Rivals.com ranked this Calvert No. 15 among the nation's inside linebacker prospects. In a game against Westlake, he threw three touchdown passes and returned an interception 45 yards for a score. 

Once healthy, Calvert should find himself in the middle of the Huskies' inside linebacker competition. Sophomores Edefuan Ulofoshio and Jackson Sirmon played a lot in 2019 and are expected to enter as the starters. Other promising young players such as MJ Tafisi, Daniel Heimuli, Miki Ah You and Alphonzo Tuputalo will push for playing time.

Of course, the Huskies haven't settled on a starting quarterback as they wait out the global health crisis. They have just three scholarship candidates in the mix, all young guys with no discernible game experience. Calvert certainly couldn't be thinking of putting his name in there, too. 

Could he?

SUMMARY: Calvert, one of the UW's more interesting players with his position versatility, was definitely going to play as a true freshman on defense until he tore up his knee. 

GRADE (1 to 5): He gets a 2.5, only because he hasn't played. He'll have to build some new momentum and make people take notice. It probably won't take long.

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