A Very Serious Evaluation Of The 2016 Callahan Videos

Because Callahan videos are what the award is all about.

Jeff babbitt

Nationals is just around the corner, and while I’m salivating about the upcoming games along with the rest of you, let’s quickly hit the pause button on prognostication, and look back for a moment with a little appreciation.

After Nationals ends this weekend, and memories of who won or lost start to fade, one thing from this season will remain: The Callahan videos. Winning may last forever in memory, but 4 minute Youtube videos are eternal.1

In a year where, and I believe the numbers back me up on this, every single college team in the country released a video, we were hit with a monsoon of highlight reels of varying quality. Because I am a historian, and I recognize the value to posterity in preserving the most important videos of the year, I combed through the muck and mire, and watched EVERY SINGLE Callahan video released this year. It was a terrible idea, but at least this means that (hopefully) no one else has to do it.

Below are the Callahan videos from 2016 that are the most noteworthy, either because of their greatness, or for what they got wrong. This is NOT a list of the best videos, and certainly not a ranking of who should actually win the Callahan, because lord knows this isn’t the place for that. This is a cultivated list of the most important videos, the ones that we should look back on in 5 years and say “huh, teams still didn’t have a ton of HD footage in 2016 I guess.”


Running this back from last year, a brief look at the criteria of what makes for a great video. While some videos can be phenomenal without checking all of these boxes, in general these qualities are what I’m looking for.

  1. Good Highlights

About as obvious as it gets. A good highlight video contains good highlights. Having video that isn’t potato-quality is also a necessity. How am I supposed to know how awesome the play was if it’s just twelve pixels blobbing over to envelope three more? However, this criteria often goes hand in hand with #2…

  1. Less than 5 minutes long

Callahan video length should be a maximum of five minutes. I want Callahan videos to highlight plays that you don’t see every day: if a video is eight minutes long, chances are it contains a fair amount of filler and run-of-mill plays. This is beside the fact that in today’s quick-fix, attention-deficient world, I don’t have the time to commit to an eight minute video. Unless the highlights are absolutely unbelievable, chances are that I’m going to lose interest at around five minutes anyway. Also, it takes something extremely compelling to forgive a video that is two songs long. Which brings me to the next point…

  1. Music that enhances the video

Music is a critical part of the video. Look at Nick Lance’s video from 2012, arguably the greatest Callahan video of all time. While the highlights are absolutely spectacular, the music sent it into the stratosphere. Also, I’d like to mention that I just realized that Lance’s video runs at 60 fps. Just in case you needed a reason to rewatch it. Of course, Lance’s video contains two songs, a clear violation of my aforementioned one-song-per rule. However, his video is so amazing that having two songs actually ENHANCES the experience, rather than bog it down. The problem is that almost everyone isn’t Nick Lance, and doesn’t have Jay Clark editing their video (touché, Jesse Shofner). An easy way to adhere to the 5 minute rule is to simply use one song, be it Ludacris, Metallica, or the Berlin Philharmonic. And please let it be Ludacris.

  1. Mostly current-season highlights

I realize that there probably isn’t enough video for this to be feasible, but in general I want Callahan videos to be highlights from this year. I want the video to give me a snap shot of who this player is right now. That being said, if videos were only allowed to show highlights from the current season, they would probably be pretty boring. Thus, a compromise. I want at least 51% of the highlights to be from the current season.

So with all that said, on to the videos…

Chris Strub (Oregon)

Strub Callahan

After not releasing a video last year, Ego gets back in the Callahan video fray in a big way with Strub’s video.

To me, this is the Elliot Erickson video of this year (maybe it’s a short guy thing?). Both videos pick up on the two or three elite things a player does, showcases them, and then gets out of the way. There isn’t a ton of grainy footage, very few wasted clips of recycled content, and a real sense of personality that exudes from the video.

The sequence that begins around 2:20 highlighting his handler defense is incredible, as the flamenco guitar makes the intricacy of his defensive footwork look like an intricate dance. The highlights here don’t bend your mind like some of Dalton Smith’s throws or leave you gob smacked like a Babbitt layout D, but they convey a great sense of “this is who this guy is and what he brings to the table,” which is important. You want your Callahan video to show the personality of the player expressed through their play on the field, and this video does a great job of that.

Jeff Babbitt (UMass)

Babbitt Callahan

Let’s get it out of the way early, this is hands down the best video of the year, and it’s not particularly close.

When you think about the greatest Callahan videos ever (Lance, Freechild, Lisa P, Peterson) what stands out is that the video is presenting you with something that you’ve never quite seen before. And let me tell you, we’ve never seen a video quite like this. If mountains ever decided to uproot and go to war, this is what it would look like.

Apart from the jaw dropping spectacle of those plays, the video gets all the little things right. By keeping it short and succinct, every highlight has meaning, each one reveling a different aspect of why Babbitt’s game is so completely devastating. A big part of that comes from what is just a perfect music choice, In The Hall of the Mountain King. Any song with lyrics would undercut the message of the video: Babbitt is an elemental force of nature, and the effect he has on the game is not constrained by the abilities of mere mortal humans. He has more in common with the mountain than the king.

Before anyone starts complaining that there aren’t enough throws…the point here isn’t too demonstrate everything that makes him a good candidate for the Callahan, it’s to make the best possible video. For a lot of players, that would mean including all of the throws they have in their tool belt, but in this instance the whole point of the video is to show how totally overpowering and all-consuming Babbitt is on the field, not how clever and precocious his throws are.

Babbitt has plenty of throwing ability not showcased here, and there is just enough in the video to provide some balance while also showing that his brute strength comes into play behind the disc as well. The sequence at 1:40 where he goes full stretch to save possession then gets up and launches a full field strike is great, and should illicit exactly how overpowering and impossible it feels to play against Babbitt. And if that doesn’t do the trick for you, then the next play (at 1:52), the single best play from any video this year, should make the point very clear.

Running through two players, absorbing contact while tipping the disc then laying out and making an off-hand snag to win Regionals is an incredible moment, and the video handles the play perfectly. The sound drops out to let the action make all the noise necessary, then pounds back with the song’s crescendo when Babbitt hits the ground, as though the percussive force of Babbitt’s play brought the music back to life…it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Khalif El-Salaam (Washington)

El-Salaam Callahan

This one gets the ignominious honor of winning the John Nethercutt award for “video that should have been amazing but was ruined by the music.” Look, the video’s not actually that bad, it’s just that… it could have been so much more. Going into the year, I was most excited for Khalif’s video, and right now this barely breaks the top 10 for me, which says a lot.

The music is so grating that it takes away a lot from the fluidity of his play on the field. Maybe I’m just not “woke” enough to appreciate the dubstep used here, but it leaves me cold. Which is a shame because, man, some of these plays are absolutely hot fire. But it’s not just the song itself, the video isn’t tightly edited and some of the best plays get muddled up by musical moments that don’t make sense.

Again, it’s not so much that it’s bad, it’s just disappointing. I’m sure we’ll all be treated to plenty more highlights from Khalif as his career progresses, but file this one away in the “what could have been” folder.

Jesse Shofner (Oregon)

Shofner Callahan

Hype. Hype hype hype, hype, hype hype hype.

For my money, this is the best female video of the year, and right up there with Bailey, Lisa P, and Hannah Leathers for GOAT.

Having Jay Clark produce Shofner’s video is a brilliant move, because Clark is the Just Blaze of the Callahan video world, and Shofner plays as though her life is soundtracked by an early 2000’s club banger. Seriously, watch that step back, walk off O/I flick she throws at 1:38. “I tell you the difference between me and them, they tryna get them ones, I’m tryna get them M’s.” She’s just playing a totally different game than anyone else, and this video captures it perfectly.

The frenetic editing highlights Shofner’s relentless energy and drive, the way she never stops attacking. Similarly to Babbitt’s entry, the video plays on the elemental nature of Shofner’s game and personality. The rain soaked introduction set to a lone snare drum is amazing, and tells you just about everything you need to know about her as a player.

The video falls off in quality slightly when the song kicks in, but that’s not so much a knock on the video — the sequence where she singlehandedly carves up Stanford is ludicrous — it’s just that it is almost impossible to match how awesome the first 90 seconds of this video are. They are pretty much the closest thing that ultimate has to the “God Level” Adidas commercial from the 2014 World Cup, aka the best sports apparel commercial ever.

A quick aside while we’re here, Clark has definitively carved himself out as the best highlight editor in ultimate, but there are some other people making great videos. Short and dirty power rankings of the best editors in the game right now.

  1. Clark (Nick Lance Callahan)
  2. Luke Johnson (Sockeye-Truck 2014 Nationals)
  3. Wes Chow (Bravo x Molly Brown)
  4. Charlie Reiff (UConn highlights)
  5. Whoever has been making the Oregon highlight reels for the last 4 years.

Dalton Smith (Texas A&M)

Smith Callahan

Man, 0-2 on Splash Brothers videos reaching their potential. There is a life-altering 3:52 minute video buried in here, but all the extra baggage really makes it crawl. I’m in a good mood though, so lets focus on some positives:

  1. Despite breaking the 3rd commandment of Callahan videos — “thou shalt not use two songs unless though hast a really, really, good reason too” — the music choice is spot on here. Seeing Dalton shred defenses with crazy blades and hammers to AC/DC just felt…right, somehow. I don’t think these songs would work for most people, but he really pulls it off.
  2. Speaking of hammers, good lord those hammers. Does Dalton have the crown for best hammers in the college game?
  3. Some players have a problem in their videos of being difficult to identify which makes it hard for viewers to know where to focus their attention. Suffice it to say, this is generally not a problem for Dalton.

There are some great nuggets in here, but on the whole, the paunchy length and grainy footage make this one a dud.

Bobby Ley (Florida)

Ley Callahan

Two thoughts on Bobby Ley’s video

  1. This video brings its lunch pail and puts in a shift. It’s got a good song that has personality but doesn’t get in the way. The highlights are a good mix of ballsy unorthodox stuff and classic, can’t miss hucks/bids. The material itself isn’t transcendent, so it limits the ceiling, but this video does all the little things right, does its job, and punches out at the end of the day. It’s the Bob Costas of videos.
  2. Woah, what’s going on with Bobby Ley’s feet? Are they huge? I feel like they look kind of huge. Is anyone else seeing this?

Trent Dillon (Pitt)

Trent Dillon Part 1

Dillon Callahan Part 1

Definitely the best Pitt highlight video ever, and it found a way to make the “talking head testimonial” thing that some players try to pull off seem organic and earned within the context of the video. However, because none of the clips are from this season and mostly because the soundtrack was muted by YouTube for infringement, we’re going to focus on…

Trent Dillon Part 2

Dillon Callahan Part 2

It’s completely insane that all of these highlights came from one season of play. Every part of Trent’s game is given its turn in the spotlight, from his wide range of throws, to his defense, to his indefatigable motor. I love the way that the song perfectly encapsulates the way Dillon’s motor is always running, there is always a sense of forward momentum in the song, while still maintaining a sense of cool and composure. It’s another example of how a video can use editing to portray a player’s personality and how they play the game beyond just what the highlight clips show.

If Dillon does win the Callahan, you can bet that the bookends from Stanford he got at the 3:11 mark will be a big reason why. He’s made plays like this his whole career, but it’s still amazing every time you see a star player show that kind of determination, grit, and hustle to shape a game. The video wisely puts the music on mute and lets the dulcet tones of Keith Raynor narrate the action.

All in all, this is about as good a video as a human player can have, but unfortunately for Trent, Jeff Babbitt isn’t a mere mortal. Trent’s video is an expertly composed symphony, while Babbitt’s video is like if God did bath salts and started smashing planets together to make music. And given the choice between those two, there is only one answer for me.

Marisa Rafter (Cal)

Rafter Callahan

Look, I get it! It’s a great video! Foot blocks are sweet! But does it have to be six and a half minutes long? Do you need two songs?

I might be picking nits here, but if we want to talk about this video being one of the best of the year, the nits have to be examined. Simply put, it’s just too long, and some plays that are outstanding lose their punch when they are mixed in with a bunch of average ones. If the video had just been the first song, with none of the material from the second half, it would absolutely have been a better final product.

Of course the longer video, highlighting more of her game, may have benefits when it comes to actually getting votes for the Callahan. But if your main agenda is to win the Callahan and not to make a great video, then in my book you need to get your priorities in order.

I’ll get out of here by saying that it’s a great video, but Shofner and Babbitt’s videos are both better. Maybe it’s unfair to define Rafter’s video in opposition to those two. Can’t we just appreciate her well rounded game and ridiculous marking ability for what it is? Unfortunately, no, because that’s not how the internet works.

Rafter’s video was so good that it begged the question of exactly “how good” it was, and the answer is…great, but not the greatest of the year. If it’s any consolation, instead of counting sheep at night, I now count Rafter footblocks, because there are enough of them in this video to put me to sleep.

Quick Hits

Shayna Brock

The music works well here, but I also would have been fine if it was just the “Swagger on a hundred, thousand, trillion” line from “Swagga Like Us” on repeat. Brock plays with a great DNGAF style, she swags out super hard and barely acknowledges it. Also, I’m a sucker for when videos use slow-mo to highlight ankle breaking cuts, which this vid does nicely.

John Wodatch

Between the high white socks, visor, and Hall & Oates song, it’s definitely a throwback look that I can appreciate. Also, his ability to jump 12 feet in the air is something I can appreciate.

Ryan Osgar

Props for ample use of the spotlight technology to highlight exactly where the action is happening. Less props for having generally “meh” highlights.

Mark Vandenberg

This is my guilty pleasure video of the year. There is nothing spectacular in the highlights, but it’s weirdly comforting to watch fundamentally perfect backhands shred marks over and over. Is this what it’s like to enjoy watching golf?

  1. Unless your video gets taken down for copyright infringement. RIP the John Bloch video 

  1. Patrick Stegemoeller

    Patrick Stegemoeller is a Senior Staff Writer for Ultiworld, co-host of the Sin The Fields podcast, and also a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn.

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