Hull: Next Generation To NFL

Penn State linebacker poised to put prints in the NFL, just as his father did 41 years ago.

Any parent would appreciate and respect a child with the following athletic resume:

* Centerfielder/leadoff hitter PIAA state baseball champion.

* WPIAL's leading rusher.

* Clinched WPIAL team wrestling championship by moving up 60 pounds to win a bout with a separated shoulder.

* Team captain in three high school sports.

* Two-year starting linebacker at Linebacker U and senior co-captain.

* Penn State's leading tackler by 65.

* Big 10 Conference Linebacker of The Year.

* Academic All-Big 10 Conference.

* NFL draft prospect.

Tom Hull has such a child. His name is Mike Hull and he just participated in the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis.

"Anything I'm trying to do, I'm trying to be the best at it," said the younger Hull. "It just comes with the territory."

The "territory" is the one his father set up for him. Uniontown football fans who go back to the program's heyday in the 1960s all know about Tom Hull.

He was born in Cumberland, Md., grew up in Uniontown, Pa., and played fullback and linebacker for the Red Raiders in the late 1960s. Tom went to Penn State in 1970 and watched Jack Ham play for a season, was mentored by John Skorupan, and became friends with Al Bundy (a.k.a. actor Ed O'Neil). All three played linebacker with Hull, who as a 6-3, 230-pound thumper was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1974, made the team, and the following season played for the Green Bay Packers.

Tom's older brother John Hull was a member of Uniontown's 1965 WPIAL championship team, became the WPIAL Player of the Year, went to Iowa as a tight end, and eventually joined Tom by transferring to Penn State.

The two didn't need to help Mike get a scholarship after the young Hull's stellar four-sport career at Canon-McMillan High School. Mike was a natural fit at Linebacker U, and this past season it was his turn to lead. He made 140 tackles. The next best tackler made 75.

Hull sprained a knee late this past season and it cost him an appearance in the Senior Bowl game. He did practice that week, and during a televised practiced ran down one player from behind not so much with speed but with smarts. He took the perfect angle and was lauded for it by broadcaster Mike Mayock. But the knee swelled and Hull couldn't play in the game.

"I was two weeks off a knee scope at that point in time," he said. "I just wanted to go out there and see what I could do, pretty much test out my knee. I think I move a helluva lot better than what I showed that week."

Mike's healthy now, and did everything but jump at the combine because "jumping kind of irritates the knee a little bit." He measured 6-0, 231 and ran his 40 in 4.71 seconds. None of those numbers are either great or poor and he's probably slotted as a mid to late-round pick at this point.

Hull played middle linebacker at Penn State after moving over from the will linebacker spot he played as a junior. He considers himself a better fit as a will, and understands that his favorite team -- the Pittsburgh Steelers -- is already overflowing with inside backers and isn't going to be too interested in another.

"I definitely grew up liking the Steelers," Hull said. "Through college we had practices on Sundays and stuff like that, so I kind of lost a little bit of it for that. I would be happy to play for any team, whoever gives me the opportunity."

Mike was born in Ellwood City some 16 years after his father's pro career ended. They moved into the South Hills of the Pittsburgh area and he grew up as a wrestling star in wrestling-mad Canonsburg, but his prep wrestling seasons were usually slowed while he recovered from football seasons. In fact, Hull was undefeated in his senior season until he couldn't compete through the shoulder pain any more after clinching the WPIAL team title for the Big Macs.

Hull played baseball, and ran track one season. His speed helped him lead the WPIAL in rushing with over 1,300 yards his junior season.

After starting two-and-a-half seasons and lettering for four at Penn State, he summed up his college career this way:

"It was a crazy ride," he said. "Not easy by any means. I had to sit behind some NFL linebackers along my way but I knew as soon as I got my opportunity I was going to make the most of it. I couldn't have met any better people or had a greater experience there."

As for his local roots, Hull said, "I go back to Uniontown every now and then. John Fortugna is one of my dad's friends. I like the area, go to Ohiopyle all the time and things like that. I respect the tradition at Uniontown High School as far as basketball and football goes."

And now it's off to the NFL. Even if he shockingly goes undrafted, Hull will certainly get a chance to compete in a training camp, and he'll no doubt make a roster.

"I told these guys downstairs, all the scouts and coaches," he said in Indianapolis, "that I've been the underdog my whole life. I played with a chip on my shoulder and I've come out on top at every level. And I don't expect it to be any different at the next."

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