Football did not come
easily for Pinedale senior Josef McCulloch.
When he started playing in middle school, he
lacked confidence and did not believe he had
any talent for the sport. He went out for football
in ninth grade, but broke his ankle and
ended up on the bench.
At this point, throwing in the towel and
quitting seemed like an easy option. But Mc-
Culloch’s father urged him to stick with it.
McCulloch went out for football again during
his sophomore year. He logged hour after
hour conditioning in the weight room, going
the extra mile in practice and watching videos
of opponents to better understand the game.
Pinedale’s head coach at the time, Mike
Gregory, recognized the young player’s
strong work ethic and saw a talent begin to
emerge. McCulloch suddenly found himself
on the field with the starting lineup as a middle
“My first time starting was my sophomore
year against Greybull,” McCulloch said.
“I was scared out of my mind. These guys
around me were going all out.”
McCulloch did not flinch on the field. He
put his head down and charged right into his
Today, McCulloch is one of the top defensive
players in the state, sought after by college
recruiters and a confident team leader.
Last week, coaches from across southern
Wyoming honored McCulloch when they
chose him to compete at the Shrine Bowl this
Every year, two teams from northern and
southern Wyoming battle it out on the gridiron
in Casper to raise money for Shriner’s
Hospitals for Children. Making it to the roster
is a high honor for a high school football
player. Out of hundreds of top senior players,
only 36 make the cut for each team.
Benefits of the game
Football is so much more than the touchdowns
scored every Friday night under the
bright lights. In addition to maintaining top
physical and mental shape, players also learn
skills and character traits that will help them
navigate their future.
McCulloch cannot imagine his life without
“Football is therapy for me,” he said. “I
tend to get hotheaded, but I can let it all out
on the football field. I just love the game – it’s
my favorite sport and something to continue
with in the future.”
Teamwork is a skill that players learn and
is crucial to winning a game. McCulloch explained
that keeping the lines of communication
open on the field is important in a game
where almost two dozen players are moving
quickly in all directions.
“You have to build a connection with your
team and bond together mentally,” he said.
“Once you’re all in sync, you can’t worry
about what the others are doing and you can
focus on what you’re supposed to do. Being
on the same page (as a team) is part of success.”
Forming these skills takes time, McCulloch
said, but the time spent is worth it. Players
can transfer the teamwork skills they pick
up on the field to form positive relationships
off the field and “be in sync” with future coworkers
down the road, McCulloch added.
Playing smart on the field is also key.
McCulloch spent hours watching footage of
games to learn every small detail about how
other players in each position move across the
“I’m not very big as far as linemen go,” he
said. “So I have to be smart and know where
the other guy is going to move next.”
As a player on a relatively small team, Mc-
Culloch and many of his teammates have to
learn multiple positions on defense and offense.
Pinedale doesn’t have the numbers to
field separate defensive, offensive and special
teams. Learning to be adaptable and switch
Robert Galbreath photos
McCulloch finds room to drive the ball up the middle during this season’s
game against Jackson.
McCulloch moves the ball away from opponents during this season’s
game against Mountain View.
roles made McCulloch more attractive to college
recruiters, even though he admits that
this situation makes it difficult to play one
position to “full potential.”
“It makes you tougher,” he said. “That’s
what football is all about.”
Shrine Bowl and beyond
McCulloch will play defense for the team
from southern Wyoming at the Shrine Bowl.
He is looking forward to seeing friends and
opponents from other teams and sports when
practice begins this summer. McCulloch said
that the chance to meet kids at the Shriner’s
Hospital in Salt Lake City and connecting
with them over sports will be a positive experience.
McCulloch is a multi-sport athlete who
also is a member of the varsity basketball
team and goes out for soccer in the spring. He
also enjoys playing percussion with the high
school band. When he actually has some free
time, McCulloch enjoys outdoor activities
like fishing and hunting.
This fall, McCulloch is planning to attend
Iowa Wesleyan University after narrowing
down his options from among the other
schools that tried to recruit him. He is considering
studying special education or business.
McCulloch will play defense on the college
team. He said he will have to start all
over again with a new team and work his way
up the ladder, proving himself practice by
But McCulloch is not afraid of hard work
and starting from the bottom to reach the top.
He said part of his success is all of the people
who supported him.