Pinedale senior picked to play at Shrine Bowl

Robert Galbreath photos McCulloch finds room to drive the ball up the middle during this season’s game against Jackson.

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

linebacker.

“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

fears.

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

summer.

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

the sport.

“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

field.

“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

practice.

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.


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