An impactful Highlander: Meet Caleb Tanner

Caleb Tanner, center right, after winning the 2018 Big South Championship.
Caleb Tanner, center right, after winning the 2018 Big South Championship.

A pull-up three. A basketball hitting nothing but nylon.

For Caleb Tanner, a sharpshooting guard on Radford University’s Men’s Basketball Team, basketball is more than the acts of shooting, dribbling or passing.

Caleb’s love for basketball is about impact – both on and off the court.

As a dedicated student, a strong leader and a respectful member of the Radford family, Caleb is an excellent example of what it means to be a Highlander.

Mike Jones, head coach of the Men’s Basketball Team, could see persistence in Caleb, when watching him play in high school basketball. “You can tell when a guy shoots the ball, and it goes through the basket the same way every time, that he spends a lot of time shooting the ball,” Jones said.

While watching Caleb play with consistency, Coach Jones realized he was witnessing dedication and heart. That was one key reason why Jones knew he wanted to have Caleb join the Radford family.


Joining the Radford family was also about becoming a responsive part of a vibrant academic community dedicated to excellence. The consistency and heart that Caleb displays on the court is also evident in his conduct in the classroom.

One stand-out class from Caleb’s Radford experience was Organization Behavior taught by Bruce Brown, Ph.D.

Brown’s class structure is based on team-assignments that run the course of the entire semester. Brown shared, “My goal has always been to light a fire and desire to challenge their boundaries and paradigms to gain deeper insights into themselves, their organizations, their communities and the larger global village--the team-based approach is just a tool to that end.”

For some, a team-based approach to instruction can present a challenge. For Caleb, it was an opportunity to thrive in the classroom in the same ways he thrives on the court.

When observing Caleb in class, Brown noted him to be, “respectful, patient, calm, thoughtful, cooperative, optimistic, unselfish and tolerant.” A true team player.

Brown and Caleb connected so well during the classroom experience that they have maintained their relationship since the conclusion of the course, they catch up over lunch from time to time.

It was Brown’s emphasis on relationships and his work investing in each student, that left a lasting impression with Caleb. “You can tell he really cared about all his students and their lives and he tried to make a positive impact on each of his students,” Caleb explained.

Impact matters to Caleb.

Caleb Tanner, second row, second from right, after winning the 2018 Big South Championship.

Caleb Tanner, second row, second from right, after winning the 2018 Big South Championship.


Caleb knows “the ball is going to stop bouncing one day.” While his career in collegiate athletics has been strong, full of major moments and lifelong memories, there is life after basketball.

All the more reason he emphasized “it is important to take school seriously.”

Caleb holds himself responsible for his success in the classroom and knows it is his responsibility to be a champion there, as well as on the court. When reflecting on what he is most proud of, he first lists his “strong GPA.” Caleb explained, “You hear the term student-athlete, and ‘student’ is first.”

And, although student comes first, Caleb knows he will never stop living a life that prizes the pursuit of athletic excellence.

Caleb has pursued an academic path at Radford University that allows his two worlds to collide. He is a student within the College of Education and Human Development with a Sport Administration Concentration.

“I’d love to go into to coaching and pass down the knowledge I’ve learned from my coaches to kids who have the same dream I had growing up,” Caleb said. He emphasized his goal is to, “try to inspire other kids and impact their lives.”


Building and fostering a sense of resiliency requires a delicate balance between grit and rest. It requires being real with yourself and others. That is not always easy to achieve as a student-athlete with a schedule that must balance practice, games, coursework, studying, family and fun.

Reflecting on the realities of being a student-athlete, Caleb said, “Time management is always kind of hard with practices, lifts and study halls along with five classes a semester.” But, his passion for the game and dedication to team make it possible. “We love what we do so it makes it enjoyable.”

Some of the closest relationships Caleb has developed on campus are with his teammates – or “brothers.” Together, they overcome challenges, maintain academic excellence and enjoy in-sport success.

Home of the Highlanders

Caleb’s journey to Radford University was years in the making. A native of Floyd, Virginia, Caleb has, in many ways, a constant “home court advantage.” Caleb’s hometown is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and a mere half-hour from Radford’s campus. He is still able to take a break and enjoy a home-cooked meal from time to time and is fortunate to regularly see familiar faces cheering for him from the seats of the Dedmon Center.

The supportive and close-knit campus community made him feel welcome from day one.

“Everybody knows everybody. Everybody is willing to reach out a helping hand and give a word of encouragement,” Caleb said.

Next time you catch Caleb representing Radford University on the basketball court, keep in mind that he is working just as earnestly to represent well off the court and in the classroom.

Caleb Tanner is a champion student-athlete and embodies the Highlander spirit.


“Responsive. Resilient. Real.” is an online story series published by Radford University that began in spring 2019. The ongoing series celebrates the Highlander spirit of students, faculty, staff and alumni by sharing their unique stories and their strong sense of Highlander pride. Through being responsive, resilient and real, Highlanders are making a positive impact and leaving a lasting legacy on our campus and in communities around the world.

Mar 6, 2019
Caitlyn Scaggs