Spain: The winding path that led Wayne Callwood from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the Badalona Dracs

The 2007 Indianapolis Colts hold a special place in Wayne Callwood’s heart. Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison were players a young Callwood could talk about and watch play forever, and he often did from his home in Charlotte Amalie, a city located on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Like many kids his age growing up on the island chain located over 1,000 miles off the coast of Florida, Callwood fell in love with football through playing EA’s popular Madden video game series and watching the annual Super Bowl. Callwood’s earliest football memories include watching that very Colts team beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

“That’s the heyday of football right there,” Callwood said.

Callwood’s football career has many twists and turns from there. An all-star offensive lineman and tight end growing up, football has taken him on a journey from his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands to colleges in the US. Today, he’s in Spain still chasing a dream he has had since he was a kid obsessed with the Colts. This is how Callwood ended up in Badalona.

Photo: Pol Cunillera

 As a kid, Callwood had his dream path all laid out in his head. He would move to the mainland United States in high school, eventually be recruited to a Division 1 university to play college football and then try to go pro.

Callwood played flag football from 7th grade until high school and was quickly recognized as an all-star offensive lineman as well as tight end, a label that stuck with him as he transitioned to playing tackle football in high school as he was one of the most competitive and talented players out of all his peers on the island.

Callwood attended All Saints Cathedral School in St. Thomas where he played for the Vikings, the school’s football team which was made up of kids who attended an array of different private schools in the surrounding area. Even as the competition grew stiffer, Callwood continued to dominate. He even had a secret weapon: a deadly squib kick.

“For kickoff, I would squib kick the ball 100 yards,” Callwood said. “All the way to the end zone, and the ball would be rolling on the field. You would be scared to pick it up because if you tried to and the ball bounced off your hand somebody else could pick it up easily.”

While Callwood found success playing football in the Virgin Islands and became quite good at it, there was a lot outside of his control when it came to executing the second part of his childhood plan.

“My parents couldn’t afford to send me away to school and they didn’t have family living in the United States to send me to,” Callwood said. “I really couldn’t do anything but stay in the Virgin Islands until college.”

Photo: Pol Cunillera

Eventually, Callwood found an opportunity for a college education in the United States, although the tradeoff was giving up on playing collegiate football, at least temporarily. He spent a semester at Florida Memorial College in Miami Gardens before deciding to transfer back home to the University of the Virgin Islands.

In his time back home Callwood picked up boxing, which he grew to love as a tool for staying in shape while also giving him the opportunity to be around his friends in a social setting. The boxing gym was one of Callwood’s happy places back home where he would spend countless hours working out and talking with others about everything from playing football to life.

“I’m not really a weight room type of guy,” Callwood said. “I’m a sports guy, and so I went to the boxing gym and met some good friends. I’m really competitive, so I wanted to be in the ring and that’s what I did.”

After three years back on the islands, Callwood received a second opportunity to return to America and pursue an education. The acceptance letter from the University of Southern Florida arrived during Carnival season on St. Thomas and Callwood recalls reading it on the morning of J’Ouvert, which is a street parade that shuts the main highway down so people can dance, celebrate and party. While the morning celebrations were memorable, Callwood won’t forget the feeling of first opening that letter.

Callwood still dreamed of playing football collegiately when he arrived in Tampa and tried to walk onto the USF team, but it was never meant to be. While disappointing, that didn’t stop him from making the most of his time back in Florida. He graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree in economics and even discovered a new favorite pastime: rugby.

“Honestly, I didn’t know anything about rugby until I saw the team playing,” Callwood said. “I was wanting to play football, but (rugby) looked pretty close and I thought ‘Shoot, I’ll train here until I can play football.’”

Photo: Pol Cunillera

The novice rugby player started at center before his coaches moved him to the wing position due to his speed and athleticism. Perhaps Callwood’s favorite thing about rugby is how every player can make a play with the ball, including offensive lineman.

Even after finding a new hobby, Callwood couldn’t stop thinking about how he could continue playing football. So, after he graduated from USF, he started to play semi-pro football, first with the South Florida Gladiators where he won a championship, and then for the West Coast Soldiers. It was during that time he began to put himself out there on, started talking to different professional teams abroad and ended up finding the Badalona Dracs.

In another timeline, Callwood might have built a career for himself in the music industry. He considers music his hobby and even headlined a show in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He loves listening to new songs with the goal of analyzing the different beats and lyrics to create his own mixes.

“When it comes to making music, a lot of it is just about what flows into your head,” Callwood said. “What does the beat make you feel? What do you feel like you could add to it? Then you go from there.”

Callwood says he is most happy when he can get into a studio to mix songs and exercise his creativity. When he’s not practicing or playing with the Dracs, you can be sure that the lineman has his headphones in jamming out to a new beat.

 “I feel like I’m pretty good at music, I just have to put more time into it,” Callwood said. “I’m not going to reap a lot from it, but I do feel like I’m a great artist.”

It’s an overcast afternoon in Badalona and Callwood is sitting on a bench next to the Pont del Petroli, a pier that jets out into the Balearic Sea. Nearby, people are out and about for an afternoon stroll and some walk past to take pictures with the famous monkey statue.

Photo: Kyle Pinnell

The sound of waves washing up on shore adds a pleasant ambiance as Callwood recounts his journey to Spain. Badalona may not have the same flair or worldwide recognition as its neighbor just down the coast, but for Callwood it’s the perfect place to begin a professional football career.

“I felt like for my first professional season, Badalona didn’t sound too bad,” Callwood said. “They’re taking care of me to the best of their ability.”

 Even today Callwood can’t help but smile when he thinks of his introduction to football all those years ago. The games of Madden, countless conversations with friends back on St. Thomas and, of course, that 2007 Colts team that changed his perception of football forever.

The 26-year-old is finally living his dream of playing professional football, even if it looks a little different than what he first dreamed. He loves getting to call the sport “work” and is embracing the opportunity to play for the Dracs and help them win another title in the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano.

 “I’m looking to develop myself into the type of player that a scout or team wants to pick up and bring back,” Callwood said. “I’m looking to put some great work on film. I like Europe and traveling the world, so I don’t mind living abroad, I’m just trying to go as far as I can while doing what I love.”