Bo Jackson is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. While he may not come up in discussions for the best football or baseball player ever, his high performance and quality in both at the same time are unmatched in modern sports history.
“When I was little, I would always go to my room, turn on top plays of football and baseball and I would just sit there and watch it,” said Caleb Otlewski, a member of SDSU’s Class of 2023 signing class, in an interview on an upcoming episode of The SDSU Football Podcast. “I never had a trainer for baseball, really, so I would just go home and watch baseball’s top plays of the season or top 100 plays in MLB history, and Bo Jackson running on the wall (was) pretty cool to me. Bo Jackson running the football (was) pretty cool to me.”
Like his favorite athlete of all time, Otlewski, a 6’4, 225 lbs. senior at Melissa High School about 40 miles northeast of Dallas, TX, excels in football and baseball. He is a consensus 3-star prospect with at least eight Division I football scholarship offers. Four ACC schools have also extended Otlewski and his 93 mph fastball scholarships to play America’s Favorite Pastime.
Despite growing up playing baseball (his mother’s favorite sport), Otlewski realized around his junior year of high school that he liked football more. “Football is so fun … I’m enjoying this,” he recalled thinking to himself. “It was hard (to choose football over baseball), but I got to do what I love and what I’m enjoying right now and what I think is going to better me in the future.”
His football recruitment picked up the same year, his first as an outside linebacker. After playing his first two years in high school as an inside linebacker, Otlewski moved outside and recorded 94 tackles, 12 TFLs, ten sacks, two forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, one interception, and two punt blocks.
“The coaches (at the time) realized how physical and how special he could be at outside linebacker,” replied Brenndan Johnson, currently in his first year as Melissa’s outside linebackers coach, when asked about the move.
His first offer came from UTSA at the conclusion of his junior season. Soon, Otlewski was flooded with offers, including two from Power 5 schools, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Since Otlewski played baseball in the spring, he would attend spring football practices when his schedule allowed but could not wear pads. Jeff Horton, SDSU’s associate head coach and lead recruiter for Texas at the time, noticed Otlewski while he attended these spring practices.
“Coach Horton saw me with my shoulder pads off … but I would still lower my shoulder and try to make plays,” Otlewski recalled. “Coach Horton said he loved everything he saw about me. (He) said I was physical even without shoulder pads, so that’s a good thing.”
SDSU offered in April 2022 and invited Otlewski, his mother, and his five-year-old brother to San Diego for an official visit in June.
“Right when I got off the plane, I was like, I’ve never been to California,” he recalled. “I love it here. My little brother’s like, ‘I’ve never been to the beach.’ He loves it there. My mom loves it there.”
With the aid of his player host, fellow edge rusher Dom Oliver, Otlewski visited the campus, the facilities and experienced the Aztec Way.
“You could tell how connected everyone was and how even just walking around campus, the students walking around were connected as well,” he exclaimed when asked what he loves about SDSU. “It was crazy to me.”
Less than three weeks later, he committed to San Diego State. On December 21st, the first day of the early signing period for the class of 2023, he made it official by signing his National Letter of Intent.
— San Diego State Football (@AztecFB) December 21, 2022
Coach Johnson met Otlewski this past summer after his hire as outside linebackers coach and immediately formed a bond with him.
“He’s very active and never gives up on a play,” Johnson said. “He’s a big effort player that has the athleticism to create game-changing plays consistently.”
With his college decision behind him, Otlewski did nothing but make big plays in his final high school season. He recorded 137 tackles, 13 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one interception on his way to being named District 7-5A Defensive Player of the Year. He led Melissa to an 11-3 record and to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
As an edge rusher, Otlewski possesses the length and explosion to excel at the next level. Johnson is quick to point out that Otlewski was recruited by schools to play outside or inside linebacker and can wreak havoc on an offense playing inside just as well.
“When there were injuries in his junior year, he had to slide to inside backer and was very productive,” he stated. “With the right coaching, he can transition smoothly at the next level at either position.”
Otlweski’s response, when asked about which position he prefers, is that he will do whatever the coaching staff asks him to.
“I love to compete, so if I get knocked down, which I know will happen, I’m gonna get back up,” Otlewski remarked. “That’s what I’ve always been taught. I want to go to a school where everyone looks to compete, and I think San Diego State (has) that.”
Johnson credits Otlewski’s humble outlook and hard-working mentality for his success and expects that to continue into a successful Aztec career. “He has an infectious personality that attracts people to root for him,” he added. “He is a hard guy to not like.”
Otlweski graduates high school on May 26th and expects to enroll for the first summer session at SDSU starting June 7th.
As for his other sport, he has hopes of potentially playing baseball as a walk-on while at SDSU but understands that life as a collegiate freshman football player is already going to be difficult and overwhelming enough without adding another commitment to it right away.
— Five Tool Oklahoma (@FiveToolOK) July 17, 2022
The last Aztec to play both sports was Calvin Munson. After Munson was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 31st round of the 2013 MLB Draft, he bypassed that opportunity to play football at SDSU. It turned out to be a smart choice, as Munson twice earned First Team All-Conference as a linebacker and parlayed it into a still continuing NFL career over the past six years.
Munson did, however, walk on and pitch for the baseball team in 2015, making seven appearances with an 8.44 ERA, before hanging up the baseball cleats for good.
A major obstacle to playing both sports is the overlap of the baseball season with spring practice for football. SDSU baseball’s opening series starts February 17, while the football team opens camp three days later.
For a young player that will need to earn the trust of the coaching staff and his teammates, Otlewski understands how crucial spring practice can be, which is why he smartly acknowledges his plan to talk to the coaches about it when he gets to campus.
Otlewski is ready to become a leader at the college level. He set a goal for himself that he would leave his mark in Melissa, TX, and he feels he achieved that. Next up is San Diego State.
“Leaving a mark at San Diego State is still a dream to me, so I don’t care if we’re in the Pac-12, Big 12, SEC,” he replied when asked about the potential of playing in a Power 5 conference as early as 2024.
“My goal is to outwork the person in front of me. It’s not going to come easy. I got to come here and compete against all the other kids that wake up early. Make sure I’m on time. Make sure I’m eating right. Nothing’s free. If it’s just handed to you, why would I want to come here?”
Coach Johnson is right. It is hard to not like Caleb Otlewski.