Bearcat Insider Speaks With Kevin McCullough

Bearcat Insider Speaks With Kevin McCullough

The 1st team All-Big East linebacker continues his football career in the Big Apple. Will the former walk-on from Hudson, Ohio beat the odds again?

The NFL draft was winding down in the 7th round last Sunday when Kevin McCullough's phone rang.  It was the New York Jets, and they were considering picking the All-Big-East middle linebacker with their final pick.  Kevin described the event.  "It was about the 220th pick, and the Jets had the 235th pick in the 7th round.  They called and said they were considering taking me along with a few other guys.  They said that if they didn't pick me they still wanted to bring me in as a free agent."  The Jets used that final pick on Chansi Stuckey, a wide receiver from Clemson, but soon afterward, the Jets and Kevin's agent agreed in principal on a free agent contract.

 

Word quickly got out that Kevin was a free agent with the Jets, but Kevin has been somewhat reluctant to talk about it because no contract has yet been signed.  "The New York papers were reporting it, but I hadn't actually signed a contract.  I still haven't signed a contract although that will get done when I get there for mini-camp on May 12."

 

When Kevin came to Cincinnati in 2004 after one season at Grand Rapids Junior College, he was an unknown like most walk-ons, and McCullough got the opportunity to learn from Jamar Enzor, who also spent time with the New York Jets as a free agent.  "It's kind of ironic that after playing behind Jamar at Cincinnati I'm now going to the same pro team that signed him."

 

Enzor liked McCullough and is responsible for giving the Hudson, Ohio native the nickname of Simba.  In Disney's "The Lion King," Mufasa was the ruler as his son Simba was being raised as his successor.  Enzor thought McCullough had Simba's eyes and would be the next leader of the Bearcat defensive.  Not everyone shared Enzor's opinion according to McCullough.  "They brought in Leo Morgan to play the middle, but I managed to play well enough to change their plans."  Kevin won the starting "Mike" linebacker position as a junior and was also awarded a scholarship. 

 

Before being sidelined by an injury in 2005, McCullough made 60 tackles in 10 games which put him 4th on the squad in tackles, but the best was yet to come.  Last season Kevin lead the stingy Bearcats' defense in both tackles (72) and tackles for loss (14.5) which earned the 6' 2"/240 pounder 1st team All-Big East honors, but as an NFL free agent, he knows he returns to the NFL's version of a walk-on and must once again prove himself.  "I kind of like being the underdog.  It motivates me."

 

When Kevin leaves for New York in less than a week, he knows nothing is guaranteed, but he's excited.  "The return date on my plane ticket is in June, but I know I could be sent out at any time."  (The Jets have a second camp from June 14-16.)  "Everyone in my family has been to New York City except me.  I'm looking forward to it."

 

Free agents are usually long shots to make NFL rosters, but Kevin feels the NFL draft showed respect for Bearcat football.  "We got a couple guys drafted and more of us are in NFL camps.  With the guys they're recruiting and have on the team, I think we're going to dominate the draft in the future."  It was that kind of attitude that made McCullough one of Cincinnati's leaders.

 

After taking a closer look at the Jets' draft, there is both good and bad news for McCullough's chances of remaining on the New York roster.  The Jets had only four draft picks, but their 2nd round choice was spent on David Harris, an inside linebacker from Michigan.

 

Hopefully, the New York Jet staff will learn what Bearcat fans already know.  Kevin McCullough won't be the biggest, fastest or strongest linebacker in camp, but he will play with intelligence and heart.  He'll be a leader both on and off the field, and when given an adequate chance, he'll make plays-just ask any of the offensive coordinator in the Big East.     

 

 

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