NORMAN — During Big 12 Media Days last month in Dallas, Texas coach Tom Herman noticed Grant Calcaterra’s one-handed grab in the Big 12 Championship game being replayed on AT&T Stadium’s giant screen.

Herman paused while answering a reporter’s question and said, “It’s hard for me to watch that catch.”

The game-sealing 18-yard reception was one of nine touchdown receptions Calcaterra has made during his first two seasons.

What isn’t discussed much is Calcaterra’s punctuation of the catch, a spike that drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“I was obviously told not to do it again,” the junior tight end said Thursday with a slight smile. “It just kind of happened, honestly. I think if the game would have ended differently, it would have been a heavier consequence. Yeah, I know definitely not to do that again.”

The spiked ball did come awfully close to an official’s head. It was probably the best (and luckiest) bounce OU received that afternoon during the Sooners’ 39-27 victory.

Calcaterra drew laughter when he added, “I just remember looking at the ref’s face after I did it and I was like ‘Don’t do it.’ He did it (threw the flag).”

Calcaterra earned All-Big 12 first-team honors after his sophomore season and already has earned preseason all-conference honors in 2019. He has 36 career catches for 558 yards.

His list of goals is lengthy, but that shows he’s concentrating on having a big season.

“I want to have a bunch of yards this year. I want to get on the field more. I want to catch more balls and score more touchdowns,” Calcaterra said. “I’m on the Mackey Award watch list. I’d love to win that if I can have a great year.

“Ultimately, I would say my goal is to help the team in and win another Big 12 championship and a national championship. Those are the biggest things that I’m focused on.”

Calcaterra was mentored by Mark Andrews, the 2017 Mackey Award winner who now is catching passes for the Baltimore Ravens. The two talk about once a week, Calcaterra said.

Andrews’ ability on the field impacted Calcaterra’s decision to come to OU.

“It was probably 80% of my choice. The other 20% was that I loved the staff and the school,” Calcaterra said. “His role in the offense was a big reason that I came.”

Calcaterra now is a mentor for freshman Austin Stogner. It’s a responsibility he takes seriously.

“The way that Mark kind of handled all that with me is kind of the way that I’m trying to be that guy with Austin,” Calcaterra said. “I’m hoping that I’m doing a good job. I’m around him all the time.”

Calcaterra was asked the biggest improvement that he is targeting.

“It’s knowledge of the defense, how zone defenses work, how guys are going to play me in man,” he said. “Physically, I would say I’m a lot stronger than I was as a freshman and sophomore. I’m a better blocker and good catching the ball with my body.

“Ultimately, I would like to make strides everywhere.”

Eric Bailey

918-581-8391

eric.bailey@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

Sports Writer

Eric covers the University of Oklahoma football and men’s basketball teams. A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate, he has been a member of the Tulsa World sports staff for 12 years. Phone: 918-581-8391