Keith Bulluck is a former pro bowl linebacker in the NFL and one of the greats in Syracuse football’s modern era. He retired from professional football in 2012 after a stellar 11-year career. Since then, he has been involved with a variety of things that occupy his time.
”I’m back in Nashville with the family life,” Bulluck said. “Obviously I’m retired. I do this Nike stuff. I do a little radio and television. Some real estate and I put the business hat on. I just finished my master’s at George Washington last July. That’s where I’m at with it now being an adult.”
The Nike stuff he speaks of are the Nike camps called “The Opening” regionals and finals. He speaks, teaches and motivates at these events as a way to connect with up and coming football youth.
”This is great for me because I don’t want to necessarily be a college coach or professional coach,” Bulluck said. “So it’s good to get around the kids at the grass roots. Some of them have high expectations for themselves. Some don’t have expectations at all.
”So it’s good to get in front of them, teach them certain techniques and teach them skills as a person, life skills, that they’re going to need later in life. Then the gratification about this also is five, six years down the line, I can see some of these guys playing on Sunday. Like ‘I remember these guys’ and I can follow their college careers. It makes it fun watching the sport again.”
During his experience with the Nike camps, he has noticed a stark contrast in the players of today and those of his generation.
”I would say what’s caught me off guard is how much is handed to these kids,” Bulluck said. “The work ethic isn’t what it used to be. That’s not to say we don’t have workers. We have workers in all the groups that we have but you do get your primadonna guys that are already the top guy in the country, this that and the other.
”It’s interesting to watch those guys too and see how it pans out in the end. So I get great gratification from it.”
Bulluck played at Syracuse from 1996 through 1999. He started his career as a safety and then transitioned to linebacker where he played inside and outside. During his career in Orange, he finished with 375 tackles and six sacks. He remembers his time on The Hill very fondly.
”I was there with a great group of guys,” Bulluck said. “Everyone held everyone accountable. That was a time when we were having first round draft picks with Marvin Harrison, Donovin Darius, Tebucky Jones and then Kevin Abrams. There was a standard set for our school and football program to be great.
”We were always ranked top-25 nationally so that’s kind of my background when I got to college.”
Bulluck still keeps in touch with many of his Syracuse teammates. It’s a brotherhood that does not require constant communication in order for that bond to endure.
”There’s a big handful of us,” Bulluck said. “We keep in touch. There’s around 30 of us last year or the year before when they retired Donovan’s number. I spoke to Will Allen the other day. Jason Poles, he works at Syracuse. I would say the nucleus of guys that I played with, Donovan (McNabb), Kevin Johnson, Dee Brown lives here in Charlotte.
”So we all kind of, it’s not every week, it’s not every other week, but there are times when we do touch base and with social media it’s easy these days.”
The goal of the Syracuse football program is to get back to the successful days when Bulluck donned the orange and blue. He believes he knows what will get them back to that level.
”Going to the ACC, you’re dealing with an established conference that’s usually based off speed,” Bulluck said. “Yeah we’re used to playing Miami and Boston College, but then you throw Florida State into the mix with the Clemson’s and Georgia Tech’s. All these teams that are established with their recruiting territories, I think now for us as a football team, we have to change our recruiting patterns. We have to kind of go into those southern schools.
”The southern states that Florida State aren’t getting those kids or South Carolina or whatever these southern schools aren’t getting kind of like we used to. Give these kids a reason to go up north. This day and age, everyone plays on television so there’s no reason you shouldn’t come to Syracuse if you want to play in front of your family. Go to Newhouse or something.”
CuseNation.com's Mike McAllister and John Garcia Jr contributed to this report.