Peter Kalambayi burst onto the high school football landscape as a sophomore when he helped lead Butler to its second consecutive state championship. The same year, 2010, he watched the Bulldogs’ star linebacker at the time, Kris Frost, receive his jersey for the U.S. Army All-American game.
Fast-forward two years, and on Friday, Nov. 9, it was Kalambayi receiving his jersey to the prestigious all-star game in front of friends, family and teammates. The game will be played in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 5, 2013, and will be televised on NBC at 1 p.m. Kalambayi is one of 90 of the nation’s top recruits to be selected for the annual East vs. West showdown.
The star linebacker, who also is a Stanford commit, joins two other Bulldogs who have been selected for the esteemed bowl game – 2010 graduate and current Auburn University redshirt freshman Kris Frost and 2008 graduate Robert Blanton, who starred at Notre Dame before being selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
But Kalambayi doesn’t let his success and accomplishments go to his head.
“I’m thankful for (my selection),” said Kalambayi, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound outside linebacker. “I just play football, but I’m very thankful for all that comes with it.”
Kalambayi and the Bulldogs (12-0) face East Forsyth on Friday, Nov. 16, in the third round of the Class 4AA State Playoffs.
Butler coach Brian Hales said if there’s anyone on his team who had a right to be cocky it’s Kalambayi, who accrued more than 30 college scholarship offers before deciding Stanford was the best fit.
“Peter doesn’t have even a little cockiness in him at all,” Hales said. “He gets a lot of accolades, but there’s not an ounce of anything that isn’t genuine inside of him.”
Hales said that humble approach with Kalambayi starts with his family life. He lives at home with his mom, Liselle, and sister, Andrea, who is in elementary school. Liselle, a native of Trinidad, works during the day and attends school at night.
“Being in a single-family home like he’s in, he sees hard work first-hand,” Hales said. “His mom works hard. To see that every day and to have that as a role model is great.”
While Kalambayi is a standout on the football field, he is also a key member of the Bulldogs’ basketball team and runs track. He is the team’s fastest 100-meter runner, with a personal best of 11.0 seconds. He also teams with fellow Bulldog football recruits Channing Stribling and Uriah LeMay on the 4×100 relay team and is one of the best discus throwers and shot putters in the state.
But it’s all in a day’s work for Kalambayi, who said he loves to compete in athletics and has a strong sense of school pride.
“I just try to do my job,” he said. “I’m confident in myself and my abilities, but I just try to concentrate on doing my job. If I do that, everything will take care of itself.”
When not excelling in sports, Kalambayi is a star in the classroom and carries a 4.2 GPA. Hales said Kalambayi could have attended most any school he wanted based on academics alone, but his success is founded on his unrelenting work ethic.
“He’ll tell you this, too, but the academics do not come easy for him,” Hales said. “He has to work at it, but he has so much pride that I think it’s why he’s the way that he is.”
On the football field, Kalambayi is as mean and aggressive as he is respectful and reserved off it. He said he has noticed that teams run away from his side of the field, resulting in fewer tackles on the stat sheet, but he added that is fine with him because his presence essentially takes one side of the field away from his opponents.
“Most of my tackles come when I have to chase somebody down,” Kalambayi said. “But it’s good with me. I’m happy because our coaches can design plays to stop the short side of the field.
“I don’t care what my stats are, but when I get to make some tackles, I get to take out some of the frustration. I don’t get a lot of
tackles, so when I do I want to be sure (the ball carrier) remembers me.”
When Kalambayi isn’t making tackles, he’s quick to give credit to his teammates who are. Fellow linebacker Sean Wiggins, in particular, handles the bulk of that responsibility in the middle of the field.
“Sean is really underrated,” Kalambayi said. “He gets to everything in the middle, and he can make plays in space.”
Hales said Wiggins has been spectacular since moving to the middle last season, and he and Kalambayi are a disruptive duo.
“With Peter playing outside and dropping into coverage, he covers a lot of ground,” Hales said. “I’m sure if Peter played in the middle he would have the numbers, but we like to blitz him, give him a chance to break up passes and those kinds of things.
“He’s a great blocker, runs a 4.5 (40-yard dash), and it’s tough to get the ball over him because he’s so big and has such a huge wingspan. He’s big, fast and covers a lot of area for us.”
Since the end of last season, the Bulldogs have been focused on finishing the year with a state title. Potentially just three wins away from their dreams, Kalambayi said this is not the time to let up on the intensity, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“Our defense is really talented,” he said. “Our defensive backs make a lot of interceptions, our front seven stops the run really well. When you can stop the run and get picks, you can be a pretty good defense.
“Now, we have to not let up and finish what we started.”