McCullough has message for Kats: beat Blues

By Bill Hunt

Dan McCullough is "kind of excited" to see his number being retired by the Fredericton High School Black Kats Saturday.

"It's kind of a big deal," said the 26-year-old Canadian Football Leaguer with the British Columbia Lions. "Honestly, it hasn't really hit me yet," he said.

"Just think of the guys that were there...Jamie Edwards, Josh Thomas, Nathan Stokes, the Appleby brothers. It's amazing just to be remembered amongst those guys let alone have my jersey retired. That's something special to me."

Something that would be almost as special for McCullough - a victory for the current edition of the Kats over the rival Oromocto High School Blues.

He played two dominating seasons of varsity football for the Kats, in 1999 and 2000. Both years, the Kats were eliminated in the playoffs by the Blues.

"If I could go back and change one thing, it would be to win a game or two against OHS," he said. "If you could relay that, please tell the boys to please win that one."

The 1999 Kats finished the regular season with a 5-1 record, tied with the Blues for second place in the division that year, The Blues beat them 16-15 in the Conference semifinals. The next year, the Kats were unbeaten in the regular season, with a 6-0-1 mark. They lost 21-17 to the Blues in the Conference final that season.

"We had all the pieces that year, we just didn't put it together in that final game," he recalled. "I just remember their running back...we weren't able to stop him. No matter what play we seemed to call, he was just going off. His name was Darren Bell. They also had a receiver, Matt Murphy. Any time they were in trouble, they would just kind of huck it up to him, and we didn't have an answer for him. We couldn't really stop those two guys."

Nevertheless, he remembers that time fondly.

"If I could, I guess I'd just say thank you for the amazing time I had at FHS," said McCullough. "It was great for me. I was lucky, because all my best friends played on the team and we were all integral parts of that team," said McCullough, who went on to play two seasons at Champlain College in Lennoxville, Que. and four at Bishops University before he hooked on as a free agent with the Lions last year.

The CFL club is struggling this season, with a 5-7 record entering their Friday night fixture against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at B.C. Place. On the other hand, they're just four points back of both the 'Riders and Edmonton Eskimos as the season enters the stretch.

McCullough, the long snapper, is enduring a bit of a slump in that role this season, but the solution is hard work. That's what got him there in the first place.

"I'm coming out of it," he said. "Last year, I was on all the special teams and just going out to snap the ball was a routine thing. This year, it's my only job. They only have me doing the snapping. I'm thinking about it too much maybe, and putting too much pressure on myself, when I should just go out there and let it go. That's what I'm going to do from here on out. I'm working through it. Every cloud has a silver lining. I'm just starting to get to the silver lining."