The best players in sports can go by just one name: Michael. Wayne. Tiger. Emmitt.
In Western New York high school football, all you have to say is "Jehuu."
The 2002 Buffalo News Player of the Year is Clymer senior Jehuu Caulcrick, a player with a unique name and a unique game whose fascinating life story leaves one more awestruck than one of the 6-foot, 235-pound running back's ooh-and-ahh touchdown runs.
Caulcrick came to Clymer as a refugee of civil war in Liberia, West Africa. He played basketball and track before giving junior varsity football a shot in eighth grade. In the four seasons that followed, he became Western New York's all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer as he led the Pirates to four straight Class D state final fours. In February, he will sign a scholarship offer to play big-time college football.
"I couldn't have had a better time at Clymer," Caulcrick said. "The players I've played with, the coaches, the community. It's been great."
Caulcrick came to the tiny Chautauqua County town in the southwest corner of the state as a third-grader after fleeing Liberia with his mother and sister. Caulcrick's father was killed in the civil war.
"I think about that sometimes," he said. "It just makes you appreciate things better. It makes you appreciate life, the little things in life, and the things that you do and the things that you get."
Caulcrick ran for 6,559 yards in his career, which is fourth on the state's all-time list. He has 100 touchdowns and 712 points. He ran for 2,161 yards (fifth-best in Western New York history) on 228 carries this season, scoring 28 touchdowns (fourth-best in Western New York history). He is a leading candidate to be the state's Class D Player of the Year and is a favorite to receive the Riverside Athletic Club's Connolly Cup, which will be awarded today.
Caulcrick's combination of power and speed made for many memorable runs. He had the quickness to take pitches to the outside and simply outrun defenders. When he charged up the middle, there weren't many tacklers who could bring him down one-on-one.
One touchdown that sticks out for Caulcrick seems fitting of a magical career in which everything seemed to come together. It was a 90-yard kickoff return in a 27-6 sectional semifinal win over Ellicottville his sophomore year.
"We broke the special teams huddle after halftime and one of the coaches (assistant Ed Bailey) yelled "Hey Jehuu, take it back.' And I just looked over at the sideline and pointed back at him. And then I did it. That was just there, that was just the right moment."
The run that sticks out for Clymer coach Howard McMullin is one in Caulcrick's freshman year that may have officially announced his arrival. In the Section VI Class D final against Maple Grove at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Caulcrick dragged several tacklers into the end zone as he won the game on a 9-yard touchdown run in overtime.
"He literally fought his way from 9 yards out for the touchdown," McMullin said. "That kind of set the stage for the things I would see, the things he would do."
While that play may have introduced Caulcrick to Western New York, he and McMullin went back to a fifth-grade math class.
"I used to be scared of him," Caulcrick said. "He was old school. If you didn't have your work done, you had to do push-ups and stuff. If you didn't do your homework, you could go out for recess, but you had to stand against the fence and watch everyone play."
The relationship between the two strengthened through the basketball and track seasons that McMullin coached and continued with football.
"He's been the father figure in my life," Caulcrick said.
McMullin has been admittedly tough on Caulcrick. At one practice last season, McMullin decided that Caulcrick was going to learn how to block. So the Pirates ran one play over and over. The defense knew what was coming, and Caulcrick had to block. Every time.
"We ran the play over 30 times," said McMullin, who has taught and coached at Clymer in various capacities since 1963. "We wanted to make him a better blocker. It wasn't part of practice, it was the whole practice."
"It was "38 pitch,' " Caulcrick said. "I'll never forget that play."
"Coach cares about all his athletes, and you're more than an athlete, you're a student," Caulcrick said. "He would get on me about my school work, sometimes he'd show up at my classes to check in on me. I get advice from him all the time. I'll just go to his house and we'll sit and talk for a few hours. We'll sit and talk about everything."
Many discussions were about Caulcrick's college choice. He verbally committed to Michigan State in August, but backed off after Spartans coach Bobby Williams was fired. Caulcrick will still make an official visit to Michigan State, but he will also visit Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Iowa and possibly Maryland.
"In a way, I'm going through the (decision) process all over again. Before, I was all set," he said. "I really liked the other coach at Michigan State, Bobby Williams. Now I don't know what's going to happen. I have to see what the new coach's philosophy is, how he intends on using me. (The Spartans have not yet hired a replacement.) Pretty much I'm opening it up again."
That means a few more visits to McMullin's house over the next couple of months, and that's just fine with McMullin.
"There's a lot of things we've talked about. All I care is he gets an education," the coach said. "The rest of it, I'm not worried about. All I care about is he finds his niche in life and is happy. We've talked about it: Your athletic ability will be taken away from you, but no one will take an education away from you.
"The thing with Jehuu is that I'm glad I had the opportunity to know him. It has nothing to do with the football. It's been my pleasure."