It started in the ninth grade, when Brian Bulcke attended high school at École Secondaire L'Essor in Tecumseh, Ontario - just outside of Windsor. A budding young star on the football field, and the number one ranked male student at his school, Brian Bulcke started hearing interest from Canadian colleges. The standout lineman was fielding interest from Division III and Division II schools by the 10th and 11th grades, which left him with an interesting decision. Bulcke grew up all his life educated in French schooling but had a path ahead whereby he could receive a top American university education.
"I made the decision to transfer to an English-oriented school which could better prepare me for an English language university," he explains. "At first it was really hard because I was thrown a lot of words I didn't get. Eventually, I became more comfortable."
The decision to transfer to St. Anne's High School, also in Tecumseh, is an important reason Brian Bulcke is headed to Stanford next fall and not to a Canadian college. The standout student-athlete pulled down a 4.0 GPA, claiming at his second high school again the title of #1 ranked male, and scored a 1330 on the SAT.
Meanwhile, Bulcke thrived on the football field. Truth be told, high school football is not that competitive in Canada. The depth of talent is simply too thin. To supplement the high school season that runs from August through November/December, club football is played from May through August in Canada. Analogous to the AAU basketball circuit familiar to recruiting hoopaholics, club football brings together the best players from a city/region across a breadth of high schools with a rigorous travel schedule. The club season lasts from May through August, leaving little to no breather before the high school season.
Bulcke plays his club football with the Essex Ravens, the same club that developed Oshiomogho Atogwe. Also from Windsor, Ontario, Atogwe was the star safety at Stanford who led the Cardinal in tackles for three straight years, while amassing enough turnovers to make a baker jealous. Last spring he was drafted early in the third round and is playing today with the St. Louis Rams.
At 6'4" and 260 pounds, Bulcke brings a different type of body to The Farm, but he carries similarly prodigious production from his days with the Ravens. He led his club team in sacks, not just in 2005, but in each of the last three years. This summer he also led the Ravens in total tackles and was selected the Defensive Line MVP of the entire Ontario Varsity Football League - across 22 club teams. Bulcke racked up 9 1/2 sacks and 44 tackles in the eight-game schedule.
"I pride myself as being a pass rusher, as well as defending the run," he comments.
Greater than the statistical crowns and MVP awards, Bulcke says that his greatest accomplishment came the summer of 2004, when he played with Team Ontario and won the national championship in the annual Canada Cup. That season and tournament ran parallel to the club season, which is why Bulcke has not played with his provincial team each year. He made an exception in 2004, however, which netted him not only national glory but also the burden of playing three seasons of football in one calendar year.
"Yeah, I've played something like 10 seasons of football in the last four or five years," Bulcke laughs.
While he has played a lot of football, Bulcke has had little exposure to U.S. college coaches. Game film from Canadian games, particularly those in high school, are not worth much to scouts. Instead, U.S. recruiters rest their evaluations largely upon the winter and spring combines that are held in Canada. Stanford's coach with the greatest Canadian connections is Darrell Patterson, who played seven years in the CFL and had a pair of coaching stops north of the border as well.
Bulcke missed most of the better known combines, not wanting to miss practices or games with his club team. "My priorities were set on playing with the Essex Ravens," he offers. "But Coach Patterson was able to see me last May at a Toronto combine. That was my first contact with Stanford."
During his 12th grade year (Ontario high schools often go to 13th grade, followed by three-year university education), Bulcke decided to narrow his college focus to Stanford, Harvard and Princeton. One school among that trio stood atop his list.
"A priority for me has always been education," Bulcke explains. "But I am also an intense football player. Stanford has the best combination of academics and football of any school in America."
For his part, the Ontario athlete sent film to The Farm during the summer from his club games. He then traveled with his father in September for an unofficial visit, which allowed the entire Cardinal coaching staff to size him up in person.
"Coach [Walt] Harris said that my two strong points he liked were my intensity and my coachability," Bulcke reports.
Stanford at that point gave the Canadian recruit an admissions application, which he completed during the fall. Early last week, Bulcke received the phone call informing him that he had been accepted and given a scholarship offer.
"I accepted right on the spot," he says.
Bulcke brings Stanford its seventh verbal commitment in the 2006 recruiting class, but the first to project on the defensive side of the ball. He is also the first Canadian scholarship recruit since the 2002 class, when Gerald Commissiong came across the border.
One last question asks: Where will Brian Bulcke play in Stanford's 3-4 defense?
"I'll play defensive end," he answers. "I play in a 3-5 defense in both high school and club here in Ontario, actually. We play with 12 players. I'm very familiar with that spot!"
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