OU Star Nixes Playboy All-American Recognition

University of Oklahoma linebacker Rocky Calmus is used to cheers from fans in stadiums around the nation as he single-handedly tackles opposing ball carriers. But he may be surprised by the support he's received by Christians because of his recent moral stand.

Calmus, a senior on OU's returning national championship football team, was one of five Big 12 players selected by Playboy Magazine to be featured on its All-America team.

Yet, Calmus did not join 26 other All-America team members chosen by Playboy who gathered for festivities at a Phoenix resort in June, and his picture will not appear in the racy publication. And the humble Calmus doesn't think it's any big deal.

"Everybody is blowing this Playboy deal way out of proportion," said Calmus. "I did it because I want to be a role model to kids. It wasn't something I determined after long prayer sessions, but a decision I made, and I'm trying to live by it."

Calmus' pastor, Mike Booth, at Oklahoma City, Emmaus, said he first learned of the linebacker's decision when he had lunch with him, and Calmus told him he had been selected for the Playboy All-America team, and he didn't want to accept it.

He told Booth the OU athletic department encouraged him to participate in the photo shoot because it would be just that - a photo shoot - and it wouldn't put him in a compromising position, and it would be good publicity for the university.

However, Calmus said he didn't want his name associated with the magazine.

"I told him if he decided to go to the photo shoot, it wasn't going to hurt him, but I thought it was great he was concerned enough about being a role model that he didn't want to participate," said Booth. "Not many people would turn down any kind of All-America honors. I told him I supported him in his decision and said it would be a good impact that he is living his Christianity out even on the football field."

As it turns out, Calmus has received more publicity from not participating in the magazine's honors than if he had. And most of it has been good publicity.

Most people learned about Calmus' decision when a story appeared in the Daily Oklahoman. Many fellow Christians were upset by a point/counterpoint in the newspaper in which Calmus was criticized for his moral stand.

Mike Koehler, the Oklahoman's deputy sports editor, called Playboy a "lightweight" publication, just a bit rougher than the church bulletin, and said it was not a place for Calmus to take a stand.

Koehler also noted the Orange Bowl, in which the OU team won the national championship, was on ABC TV, which also broadcasts "NYPD Blue," which has been known to show nudity, and asked the question, "Do you plan to not appear on ABC anymore?"

He concluded his column with the fact that NBA basketball star Michael Jordan was a Playboy All-American and "the Earth didn't stop spinning."

In the Counterpoint, sports editor Barry Tramel commended Calmus by saying, with his decision, "he told us more about himself than anything he ever did on autumn Saturdays." "Oklahoma has a linebacker who knows what he believes, and wasn't afraid to say so," said Tramel in his column.

Booth noted that if Calmus had gone to Phoenix for the Playboy photo shoot, it would have been just another All-America honor, and most kids wouldn't even have known about it.

"But as it is, he still gets the honor, because his name will still appear," said Booth. "When he declined to go out there, I think he thought they would not put him on that team, and it really didn't bother him. He said he hoped there would be other All-America honors to come."

Although Calmus' picture will not appear with the Playboy team, his name will still be in the publication because Gil Brandt, former director of player personnel for Dallas Cowboys, who helps select the Playboy team, said Calmus' decision not to attend the festivities was not a problem.

"His name will still appear because we believe he's one of the best players in the nation," said Brandt.

Last year, as a junior, the 6'3", 240-lb. Linebacker from Jenks was a consensus All-America selection and a finalist for the coveted Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.

With so many demands on his time, including football practices, training and classroom work, Calmus still finds time for his Christian walk. He is involved in Tuesday night meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Norman, team chapels and study of the Bible and Christian books with this pastor.

Booth said this summer, he and Calmus have studied through I, II and III John and the book of Jude.

"I recently gave him Steve Farrar's book, Finishing Strong," Booth said. "He has started that and loves it. He's going to read it by chapters, and when he finishes one, we will meet and talk about the principles of that book."

Booth said Calmus has been encouraged by messages that have flooded into the church by e-mail since word of his Playboy decision hit the news. They have come from pastors, directors of missions, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma employees, Baptist Collegiate Ministries directors and a coach's wife.

The messages have been mainly encouragement, prayer support and appreciation that a young man today will take a stand for what is right.

One man said he has a 2-year-old son, who he hopes will one day also take a stand for Christ. A mother of two daughters commented on how few godly young men "seem to be out there today."

Another compared him to Eric Liddell, the runner whose story was told in the movie "Chariots of Fire." He said, "In the face of ridicule, you refused to be manipulated by a misogynistic magazine that degrades women and treats them as mere disposable objects of temporal gratification. You are a type of Eric Liddell and my new hero."

"I know the atmosphere of college athletics is full of every temptation, and we need more athletes who will keep their eyes focused on Jesus and the eternal prize," said another e-mail.

Reprinted by permission Baptist Messenger.