HERE COMES THE SON
WALLOWA The lessons started early.
The old football helmet, a relic of some season long past, was too big for eight-year-old Kaleb Oveson, but it didn't seem to matter.
All that mattered then was learning to catch the football with his hands.
Never the body, Greg Oveson would say to his son. Always the hands.
Back and forth until afternoon turned into evening, until evening turned into dinnertime.
The former All-American wide receiver and his young son tossing the pigskin in the backyard.
It's downright Rockwellian.
"The helmet was so big it would almost spin around on Kaleb's head," said Greg, smiling and stifling a laugh. "But I wanted him to learn how to catch passes with his hands."
Nine years later those lessons are starting to pay dividends.
Greg, Wallowa High School head football coach, has been able to watch first-hand as Kaleb, a 6-foot-2 160-pound junior, has developed into one of the state's top wideouts.
Through three games, Kaleb has caught 35 passes for 539 yards and five touchdowns. That's a clip of 15.4 yards per catch.
As a sophomore, Kaleb had 61 catches for 1,389 yards and 19 touchdowns on his way to being selected first team all-Old Oregon League.
This season, Wallowa is 2-1 and the No. 2-ranked 1A team in the state after going 9-1 in 2004 and losing in the state semifinals to McKenzie.
"When it comes to playing football, at this point it doesn't matter that Kaleb is my son," Greg Oveson said. "He's just good. He needs to be on the field."
Kaleb, though, has a fan who begs to differ: His grandmother, Anne.
"My grandma always tells me how much I remind her of my dad when he played," Kaleb said. "She'll bring out the old articles and show them to me, and I like that. I'm proud of everything my dad accomplished.
"When he got to college, he was a wide receiver who always made sure he caught the ball. He's the one who taught me how to catch."
In the late 60s and early 70s, Greg was an all-state wide receiver, basketball player and track athlete for Wallowa and later an All-American wide receiver and javelin thrower at Eastern Oregon University the school's first two-sport All-American.
In honor of his achievements, Greg was inducted into the EOU Hall of Fame in 2004.
It might seem like a lot to live up to, but for Kaleb, it's not a matter of living up to anything.
He leads a boy's life. He catches passes, wins games and loves hanging out with his friends.
"We're all really close on the team, which makes it a lot of fun," Kaleb said. "The guys I play with are my best friends, and we all went through the same thing last year, losing to McKenzie, and this year we feel more experienced, like we're not overlooking anybody."
As for the future, the younger Oveson doesn't rule out following his father's path to EOU and to donning the navy blue and gold that his father wore in his heyday.
For Greg, it's something that's crossed his mind a time or two.
"We've talked about Kaleb going to EOU, and it's one of a couple of places we're looking at," Greg said. "Kaleb's got a couple of friends that are going to try and play there and Coach (Jim) Fenwick is doing a good job with the program.
"As a parent, I would love to see him at EOU and I would love to be able to watch his college career. Being his coach you're not really able to enjoy it as much as you would just sitting in the stands."
Wallowa puts its No. 2 ranking on the line Friday at Halfway against No. 5 Pine Eagle.