Scholar Athlete: Caleb Upton

Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 26, 2012

athedral senior Caleb Upton, right, and his father, Jeff Upton, shoot hoops Sunday afternoon in their driveway. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Caleb Upton is known by Cathedral High School fans mostly for his athletic feats, but his classroom accolades are just as deserving of recognition.

Upton currently has a 4.2 grade-point average and recently scored a 28 on the ACT. Splitting time between football, basketball and baseball might seem tough, but Upton said there’s one person that has really helped him stay on top of both academics and athletics.

“I put in equally as much time with academics as I do with athletics, and that comes partly from my parents, particularly my dad, Jeff,” Upton said.

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“It used to be where after I’d come in from school, the first thing he’d always check on was to see how much of my schoolwork was done. He hasn’t checked on that as much recently, because I’m pretty on top of it.”

Upton said his father also pushes him to be the best he can be, no matter what sport.

“I’m a lot better than I probably should be, and I could easily be just another run-of-the-mill athlete and student, but he never took it easy on me and pushed me to be my best,” Upton said.

Jeff said his philosophy is that smarts can carry you the rest of your life, while sports can only carry you so far.

“I told him and his sister Caitlyn that sports are not just granted or guaranteed, but they’re a privilege,” Jeff said.

“You have to take care of your schoolwork, and sports is just kind of a reward. But I support them in all they do and try to get them involved in many activities.”

But even with the best athletes, there always comes a time to hang up the jersey, Jeff said.

“One day, we’re going to have to get up and go to work, and having an education will take you further,” Jeff said. “Sports and academics sort of complement each other.”

Jeff and Caleb stand in front of their basketball goal. Jeff said he stresses to his son that academics come first before athletics. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)

But Jeff also serves to push his son hard in sports as well as school. He acts as a mentor in football, basketball and baseball.

“I teach hard work and teamwork,” Jeff said. “If you work hard, you’re going to be successful.”

But Upton admitted that he sometimes didn’t like his father’s tough love at the time his father showed it.

“There were some days, he’d have me so frustrated, I’d want to go inside and call him names,” Upton said. “Now I see that it helped me. A lot of people always get there way and have never dealt with failure, and he’s helped me with that.”

There’s a reason for all the tough lessons, Jeff said.

“Sports is like life, they’re both tough,” Jeff said. “No one’s going to cut you any slack in the real world, and each level you move up to is a little tougher than the one before. When you increase levels, you play against the best.”

Of the three sports, Upton said his father is particularly skilled at teaching hitting. But as for Upton’s primary position, catcher, Upton said his father honestly doesn’t know much about the position.

“A lot of people know hitting, but he’s the kind of person that can relate it to you,” Upton said. “But he’ll tell you himself that he’s learned it from other people.

“With catching, (Cathedral assistant baseball coach) Ron Rushing has helped me a lot, since he caught at Delta State.”

Upton said his GPA is over four because of different honors and AP classes he’s taking, but Upton insisted he didn’t sign up for those classes just to boost his GPA.

“I base what classes I take on what kind of workload I think I can handle,” Upton said. “If I don’t think I have the time or ability to do it, I just don’t take it.”

Upton said his attitude toward sports is derived from a quote by former Mississippi State baseball coach Ron Polk.

“The best players are made when nobody’s watching,” Upton said.

Upton’s mother is Sonya Upton.