It wasn't supposed to be this way. Kevin McCullough was supposed to continue the family tradition and attend Miami of Ohio. After all, his brother played safety for the Redhawks for four years before graduating in 1999, and his sister was a scholarship volleyball player in Oxford. How could he have landed in Clifton?

Well, the family plan hit its first snag when Kevin graduated from Hudson High School in Hudson, Ohio. Kevin's grades weren't as good as he would have liked, and physically he wasn't ready to play Division IA football. Plan B included a one year stop at Grand Rapids Junior College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While in Michigan, Kevin was the #2 tackler on a team that went 9-2 and won the Graphic Edge Bowl. He had gained some weight, and his grades had improved. Now he was ready to become a Redhawk, or was he?

Kevin surprised his entire family when he went to Plan C. "I was planning to go to Miami all along since my brother and sister had played there. A lot of the family wanted me to go there. At the last second there was a discrepancy between me and some of their coaches so I started talking to some of the coaches here. I ended up loving it here, a lot more than I liked it up there. This is a good fit for me."

This April, Kevin seems determined to spring yet another surprise. Despite playing in only two games last season, Kevin is pushing Leo Morgan for the starting inside linebacker's position. A year in UC's defensive system has really helped. "I'm playing a lot faster than I played last fall. I know the defense a lot better, and that allows me to get to where I need to be without thinking. I'm just doing a better job of finishing plays." That fact was not lost on Coach Dantonio during Tuesday's practice as Kevin earned praise from the head coach for his pass coverage.

Despite the loss of so much experience from last year's team, Kevin feels this team has other attributes. "We may be a young team, but we're also an enthusiastic team with a lot of good attitudes. There's so much more enthusiasm out here compared to last year. We also have some playmakers. Those freshmen running backs last year helped lead our team, and our offensive line is solid too."

Here's where Kevin delivered another surprise. After asking him about the biggest game on next year's schedule, I expected Miami to be the hands down winner, but it wasn't. "For sure Miami's a big game since my brother played there, but Louisville's a big game. We've already talked about it. None of us have ever been on a team that lost like that, 70-7. It left a really bad taste in our mouths. We have something to prove."

The discipline in practice this spring has been impressive. No profanity or fights go unnoticed or unpunished. Kevin believes that type of discipline has helped in a couple ways. "From what I understand, it was looser with the previous coach, and with it being Coach's first year last year and all the seniors, it was harder to be strict. But this year the system is more firmly in place, and it helps us to be respectful and have a good attitude. Those are things Coach Dantonio preaches to us. Even when a fight breaks out on the field, they're immediately disciplined, and those players have to run the steps. It really brings us closer as a family."

The young, thin linebacker from Hudson High has added 45 pounds to his frame and transformed himself into a solid 240 pound linebacker. It was that player that got Jamar Enzor's attention last year. "Jamar used to call me Simba. I was the young lion compared to him. A lot of the guys on the team call me that."

This young lion, like Disney's Simba, may be ready to lead this pride of Bearcats into the Big East Conference.


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