Antioch's sophomore 'Golden Boy' is eager to test his mettle
His stock keeps soaring.
His frame continues heading skyward, too.
"He's taller than me," Antioch senior wingback Ben Nauman, who's 6 feet 2, said with a grin of his new teammate Athan Kaliakmanis.
The 190-pound Kaliakmanis, who is set to start at quarterback for the Sequoits on Friday night when they open the season at home against Lake Forest, stretches to 6-4. Since the end of last season, when was the starting QB for Carmel Catholic's varsity as a freshman, he has grown an inch and picked up Division-I scholarship offers from Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Iowa, Iowa State and Central Michigan.
Mind you, he turned 15 just on Monday. Which surely makes him one of the youngest students in his high school class.
At this rate, by the time he's a senior, Kaliakmanis will have more major-college football offers than letters in his last name.
"I razz him more than anyone," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. "I'll say in practice (jokingly), 'Come on, Golden Boy.'
"We were in the gym and he made a pitch that was a little off. I told him, 'Let's not let the recruiters see that one.' I bust his chops. And he's great."
It's more than just Kaliakmanis' long frame, powerful arm and athleticism (a road sign entering Antioch still notes his IESA state championship in the long jump) that are impressive. His confident-but-not-arrogant demeanor suggests he's ready for the scrutiny, which goes back to last year at Carmel, that comes up with the hype he's received. Veteran Corsairs coach Andy Bitto had never turned over his offense to a freshman.
Kaliakmanis and his older brother, Dino, who's a sure-handed wide receiver, transferred to Antioch (their hometown for years) for the second semester last school year.
Nauman used to play Vikings youth football with Athan but hadn't seen him in about five years.
"When I heard the rumors that he was coming to Antioch, I made sure to do my research," Nauman said. "I was watching his film. He's an athlete. He can do whatever is needed to do. He's got an arm. He's got legs."
The sophomore QB has the whole package.
"He does everything well," Glashagel said. "He takes coaching well. With all the pub he's getting, he's got a good head on his shoulders. He's handling it really well."
Antioch's coach knows there will be growing pains. Kaliakmanis knows opposing fans and players will be quick to judge him and try to rattle him. The first time he fumbles, gets sacked, throws an interception, fires a pass at a receiver's shoelaces or flings an errant pitch, the "O-VER-RATED" chants will cascade on him like a January snowfall.
He got those as a 14-year-old at Carmel, too. He's grown from it.
"I've learned to block everything out and just focus on my game," Kaliakmanis said. "It doesn't really bother me."
Since he took over Antioch's program in 2007, Glashagel has employed a triple-option offense, and 7 playoff berths in 11 seasons suggests it isn't broken. Sequoits QBs have always taken snaps from directly under center.
Now, however, Glashagel has a tall quarterback with D-I skills who can burn opponents not only with his legs but also his arm.
You don't acquire a Corvette and drive it only to Jewel to buy groceries.
Will Antioch run plays from pistol formation or traditional shotgun, while also maintaining its loyalty to option football?
"Really, (the adjustment) is just learning how to run," said Kaliakmanis, who ran different offenses, including option and spread formations, at Carmel. "I didn't have to run as much (at Carmel), but this year I think I'll be running a lot more."
Branden Gallimore was Antioch's starting QB the last two years and led the Sequoits to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. Kaliakmanis has big cleats to fill, but he has multiple weapons -- including his brother, Nauman and Hersey transfer Nick Wiley -- who should lessen his load.
Kaliakmanis doesn't have to be "Golden Boy" in order for the Sequoits to be successful.
"He reminds me a lot of Branden," Nauman said. "He brings leadership. He's going to do well. He's picking up (the offense) well. He's a smart kid."
And he's a QB with giant upside.
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