Wake-Up Call For Large Lineman

Several players used Saturday's Jackson Hospital Capital City Combine to get their names on the football recruiting map. One of those is a big lineman from North Alabama, who is a teammate of one of the top quarterback prospects in the state.

Montgomery, Ala.--Cedar Bluff High School head coach Steve Smith knows a thing or two about college football. As part of one of the most storied periods in this state's football history when he played for Coach Bill Burgess at Jacksonville State in the late 1980s, he had a chance to view up close and personal what it takes to be successful on the collegiate level.

The story doesn't end there though as his time as a Gamecock also gave him the chance to see future NFL players such as Eric Davis and David Gulledge get their start on the road to success. Davis, one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, played for the San Francisco '49ers and Carolina Panthers for over a decade and was a Pro Bowl performer numerous times. That experience gave Smith a chance to get a feel for knowing what coaches look for in a player and he thinks he's got a bonafide sleeper in his presence in big offensive lineman Lance McCullough.

Still a youngster, who just turned 17 in January, the 6-3 ¼, 308-pound McCullough has been a starter for Cedar Grove since his freshman season and now he's primed to make a run at something that has never been done in his family before. He wants to go to college. And if football is his way to accomplish that, then he's ready to make the sacrifices necessary to make his dreams come true.

McCullough shown during a drill at Saturday's combine.

"My brothers and father played high school ball, but nobody in my family has ever been to college," McCullough told Inside The Auburn Tigers during a break at Saturday's Jackson Hospital Capital City Combine. "That's what I'm shooting for...I've always been an Alabama fan and I like Auburn, too, but right now I'm just looking for any colleges that will give me a scholarship."

That shouldn't be a problem. With superb agility and quickness off the line for someone his size, McCullough quickly stood out from the crowd on Saturday. On a relatively slow wet and windy track he ran a respectable time of 5.5 in the 40-yard dash, but it was in the drills that he made his mark. Showing good footwork in the pass blocking drills and moving well from side to side, he had most of the 40 college coaches in attendance giving him a look during the day.

"I wasn't too pleased with my bench, but I'm going to get in the weight room this summer and get ready to go," McCullough said after doing 15 reps of 185 pounds at the combine. "My arm has been a little bit sore but it will be alright. I think other than that I had a great day. I had a great time."

Maybe the best news for colleges is that his coach predicts that McCullough is only going to get better from this point forward.

"I think he would be classified as what you call a late bloomer," Smith said. "He's received some honors and recognition after this past season, but he's really improved himself from the time of our last ball game to right now probably more than anybody on the squad. His lifting totals have all gone up and his speed has gotten better. His dedication has been unmatched by any other time in his life. I think he's got his brightest days in front of him."

An All-State performer as a junior, McCullough also plays basketball, baseball and participates on the track team for Cedar Bluff. "I finished fifth in the state this year in the shot put this year. I also pitch and play first base and made All-State last year as a pitcher." His coach says that despite his size, McCullough is a surprisingly good base runner. "He's the best on our team."

Showing the skills needed to make it on the next level during Saturday's workouts, McCullough said that he can now concentrate on his senior season and helping Cedar Bluff win the big prize. "I just want to help my team out," he said. "I'm not trying to be an individual, I'm just trying to help my team win a state championship."

With players like McCullough suiting up next fall for Cedar Bluff, that goal may be just around the corner.

Tiger Ticket Extra: McCullough was just one of several players that burst onto the scene during Saturday's combine. Everyone knew about players such as Opelika's Tez Doolittle, Central Phenix-City's Kelcy Luke-McKissick and McCullough's teammate, quarterback Cole Peace. However, there were some surprise standouts. Among those were two quarterbacks from the Mobile area. Davidson's Thomas Kirksey turned in one of the top 40-yard dash times of the day when he was clocked at 4.5. The 6-0 ½, 198-pounder also showed an ability to throw the ball downfield and could throw with touch as well...While Kirksey was impressive it was Shaw's Dezzmon Johnson who stole the show among the quarterbacks. After running consective 40 times under 4.6 seconds, he dazzled the crowd with his strong arm, throwing deep ball after deep ball on the money. Standing 6-3 ¾ and weighing 187 pounds, Johnson catapulted himself from a sleeper to one of the prospects to watch for the 2003 recruiting season.

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