On a warm summer evening in Pittsburgh, a college student in a white shirt and a tie walks down Forbes Avenue with a bag slung over his shoulder, texting on his cell phone. He has just ended a day working at his internship downtown; he is making plans to get together with some friends for happy hour. The usual spot. The usual time.

A half-hour later, they all meet, but not at a favorite watering hole. Instead, they are in the center of CMU’s Gesling Stadium. Rob Kalkstein (TPR’14) has shed his white shirt and tie in favor of a gray T-shirt and shorts. That bag filled with work stuff has been replaced by a football.

Kalkstein, CMU’s starting quarterback, chats with the friends he just texted: the team’s wide receiver and two running backs. There are no coaches here, just Kalkstein and his teammates running plays while a few joggers circle the football field.

Pass after pass, Kalkstein tries to memorize exactly how fast it takes his teammates to run to a particular spot, so that the ball, thrown in a tight spiral, is waiting for them. The informal practice goes on long after the joggers have packed it in.

Kalkstein knows what it takes to win football games. It starts with discipline, which is why he spends his evenings after work on the field, not stretched out on a La-Z-Boy. But winning takes talent, too, something Kalkstein has demonstrated since high school.

He became the starting quarterback for Gateway High School in Monroeville the first game of his freshman year, and he never came out of the lineup. He became the first Quad A Western Pennsylvania quarterback to throw for 6,000 yards, beating out some impressive local athletes from years past, including Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Dan Marino.

But when it came time to choose a college, he found that Division I coaches were wary of his height—5’10”—because they feared he would have trouble seeing over onrushing linemen. Carnegie Mellon coaches simply saw a winner. Just like high school, he started the first game of his freshman year for the Tartans and hasn’t missed a game since then.

Last season, he was named the University Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year, having set single-season school records for passing, completions, and completion percentage. But, he says, that’s the past. For the 2013 season, he wants to lead the Tartans to the Division III playoffs, which is why he spent his summer nights throwing pass after pass after pass.
—Bradley A. Porter (DC’08)

Related Links:
Tartans Tabbed Third in UAA Football Preseason Poll