Senior Caleb Treadwell is wide receiver and cornerback for Oak Hill High School football team and a respected leader on the team. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

WALES — When the Oak Hill Raiders need a little tough love and the coaches want the players to hear it from one of their own, Caleb Treadwell is often the one they have dole it out.

“He’s a leader,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “Sometimes he says things that kids don’t want to say, that are tough to say, like, ‘You need to pick up the pace,’ or, ‘Hustle,’ or, ‘We need to stop fooling around.’ He’s a tough-love leader sometimes. He can say it because he’s earned it.”

Indeed, the Raiders have reason to listen when Treadwell speaks. The senior is a two-way standout at wide receiver and cornerback. A two-year varsity starter, he is one of the few holdovers from the tail end of the school’s run of three consecutive Class D state championships from 2013-15. Treadwell was a special teams contributor as a freshman on the 2015 team.

That Treadwell is able to speak with conviction and purpose isn’t just a testament to his playing resume. It is proof of his own resilience and determination to overcome a speech impediment he has had virtually his entire life.

Diagnosed with a severe form of ADHD, Treadwell stutters when he is nervous.

“Sometimes it just takes over, where my brain goes a lot faster than my mouth does, so I have a hard time speaking,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a hassle. Sometimes it’s not.”

“Everyone around here is pretty used to me having it, so it’s not really a huge issue,” he added. “When I’m more nervous, I might stutter a little bit more if I don’t know somebody as well. If I’m angry, sometimes it does, too. I really can’t control it, so I don’t know when I’ll have a block or when I’ll stutter. But when I do, I’ll work through it, slow myself down and try again.”

Treadwell tried speech therapy for a couple of years to address the speech impediment, but said it only had a minimal effect.

“For the most part, I think I’ll have this for the rest of my life,” he said. “But I think I’m used to it now and comfortable.”

Treadwell doesn’t hide his stuttering (his Twitter handle is @StutterKid21) or let it stand in the way of doing what he loves or trying new things, such as performing in the drama club when he was in middle school.

“Everyone here is supportive about it. They just let me speak and it’s never a problem. And it’s good for them and good for me also, because it makes me more comfortable around them,” he said.

Also a center fielder/pitcher on the baseball team, Treadwell is comfortable speaking his mind to his peers, and coaches are eager to have him do just that because his words and actions carry extra weight.

“When he’s leading, he doesn’t have nerves so it doesn’t come out. It’s proof that when you dedicate yourself to something and pour your heart into it, you’re not going to be nervous,” Doucette said. “I think that’s a really important thing for people to know. Like if you have to do public speaking and you’re nervous about it, things like that may show up. But if you attack it and take it on, you can feel confident and you can work through things. And I think he’s done that.”

Following last football season, Treadwell decided to take on football head on by deciding to stop playing basketball to instead focus on the weight room. At 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, he’s one of the smaller players on the field, but the strength, bulk and confidence he’s gained make him a dangerous one to underestimate.

“Pound-for-pound, he’s probably the strongest kid on the team,” Doucette said. “He does things in the weight room that a kid his size shouldn’t do. We do a lot of things in our weight room with speed, agility and quickness and he does a really good job with that stuff.”

“It’s helped with how I run my routes, getting tackled … I feel like I can take hits a lot better,” Treadwell said. “As I started to get stronger, I started to see myself as a potential all-star candidate.”

Treadwell’s aspirations and the inspiration he serves to his teammates impact the Raiders on and off the field.

“He means a lot to our team because he’s that kid who dreams of being a star, so he’s willing to do what it takes to be a star,” Doucette said. 

Treadwell feeds off his teammates as much as they do off of him.

“My team has a huge impact on me just from the fire I draw from them,” said Treadwell, whose team has a big D South game at Spruce Mountain on Friday night. “We’re all working as one and it’s going really good right now.”

“I just want our team to be successful, because it means a lot,” he said.

Treadwell’s play-making ability on both sides of the ball is part of the reason things are going so well. 

Termed by Doucette as a “home run threat” at wide receiver, Treadwell showed he can make plays in traffic, too, when he made one of the most spectacular catches of the season in last week’s 51-23 win over Poland on a short touchdown pass from quarterback Gavin Rawstron.

“It was a post corner, and timing is everything,” Treadwell said. “Everything was so smooth, and (Rawstron) is a great QB.”

“We’re finding creative ways to get him the ball as of late, and we’re going to continue to do that,” Doucette said. 

Treadwell also had an interception in the game, but he doesn’t just have a nose for the ball when it’s in the air. Even as a cornerback, he is the Raiders’ second-leading tackler.

“I feel like I’ve improved on tackling, wrapping up, just keeping everything in front and taking away big plays,” said Treadwell, who is currently weighing his college options and hopes to continue playing football or baseball at the next level. 

“Caleb is a little bit of a firecracker, so to speak,” Doucette said. “He’s full of energy. Sometimes it’s hard to control him and we have to say go easy. He’s full speed all of the time.”

If and when he is given the opportunity to serve as a role model for others beyond his Oak Hill peers, Treadwell will be eager to give that everything he’s got, too.

“I haven’t really had an opportunity to reach out, but since I have a big impact on our football team and baseball team helping everyone, I feel like eventually I could have an impact on some kids,” he said.

“I feel like the more I put myself out there, the more people will listen,” Treadwell said. “The more I try, the more they’ll see how successful you can be if you try, and hopefully that brushes off of me and onto them.”


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