LAGRANGE PARK, Ill. -- Nazareth senior safety Kalium Ewing has never gone into a game expecting to return an interception for a touchdown.
Ewing has played the position long enough to understand how rare a pick-6 is no matter how skilled the defensive back. For example, NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green intercepted 51 passes in his career, only scored on six of them and never had more than one pick-6 in a season.
A lot has to go just right for a defensive back to capitalize completely on an interception. There’s some skilled involved. There’s also some luck. And in 2011, Ewing appears to have a lot of both. Ewing has intercepted four passes this season and returned all of them for touchdowns.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Ewing was recently named the East Suburban Catholic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He now also is the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.
“There’s just something when he touches the ball defensively,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. “On a much smaller scale, he’s [Baltimore Raves safety] Ed Reed-like. He’s got that swagger and confidence that when he gets the ball he’s going to score. It’s not surprising to us. He just expects to play that way.”
To make Ewing’s feat even more unique is that he accomplished it in just two games.
It all started in Week 7 against Notre Dame. In the third quarter, he anticipated an out-route by Notre Dame’s receiver, jumped the pass and took off for a 42-yard touchdown for the first pick-6 of his career.
“I had a lot of my teammates blocking downfield for me,” Ewing said. “One of my linemen pancaked their lineman, and I jumped over him and beat the quarterback to the end zone. It felt great.”
Later in the quarter, Ewing was at it again. He scored on a 25-yard interception.
“The second one I was really shocked,” Ewing said. “The guy ran a hitch. He tipped it. I hit him and the ball popped and caught it.”
Two games later, St. Viator made the mistake of throwing Ewing’s way. He returned interceptions for touchdowns of 25 and 60 yards.
“It was crazy,” Ewing said. “I couldn’t believe it happened again. After the last game, I don’t go into it expecting to do it. I just play normal. If it happens, it happens.”
Ewing doesn’t just have a special touch for interceptions. He’s also scored a touchdown on one of his two receptions this season and has one kickoff return for a touchdown.
Ewing simplified his gift for touchdowns this season.
“I don’t get the ball a lot,” Ewing said. “When I get the ball, I try to make something happen.”
Racki believes there is more to it.
“The intangibles he brings defensively is his overall athleticism,” Racki said. “He gets it by being consistent and being able to play at a high rate of speed and high rate of confidence. He has a 40-inch vertical, which helps. He’s so versatile he can make any defensive scheme look great that you put him in.”
Ewing hasn’t received a lot of college looks so far, but Racki is hopeful they will come. Racki is confident Ewing can make some college coach look as good as Ewing has made him.
“They look at so many combine times and put stock in 40 times and bench reps,” Racki said. “I’ve been shaking my head over that instead of them looking at the actual football field. He can actually compete at the Division I-A level. At Division II, it’s a layup.”