‘Sam I am’ — East senior linebacker finds identity

For those keeping track at home, at Columbus East High School, the Sam isn’t played by Sam.

No, Sam is Mike, Nick is Sam and T.C. is Will.

To see if you follow, here is a question … will Sam play Mike?

Yes. Now you’ve got it.

What you might not know is that Nick Cull wasn’t willing to play Sam, or Will or Mike when he was a sophomore.

We’re talking linebacker positions. For the record, “Sam” is the strongside linebacker position, “Will” is the weakside linebacker slot and “Mike” is the middle linebacker spot.

Cull, who is now a senior, decided after his freshman season of high school that he wanted to be a basketball player.

Thankfully for the Columbus East football team, he changed his mind after sitting out a year of football.

Cull has been a dominating “Sam” backer for East since the beginning of the 2014 season and he now combines with senior Sam Dwenger, a two-time, all-state “Mike” backer and junior T.C. O’Neal, who has been terrific at the “Will” slot.

“Nick was good as a freshman, but he decided not to play as a sophomore,” East head coach Bob Gaddis said. “He kind of started slow when he came back as a junior, but he is a great athlete and he got better as the year went on. He played 14 games.

“Then he got in the weight room.”

Cull dedicated himself to becoming a better football player and he returned in 2015 as a bigger, stronger kid. Although he stayed about the same height of 6-foot-2, he went from 190 pounds to 220 pounds. It was all muscle.

“He is big enough now that we can step him up to take people on,” Gaddis said. “We face a lot of power running teams and he has done a good job of that.”

It is somewhat of an unheralded job, but Cull doesn’t mind.

“I do whatever the coaches want me to do that week,” he said. “Maybe that means I need to blow up the fullback, giving up my body.”

Cull has gotten so strong that it appears the fullbacks are the ones giving up their bodies.

In helping East to a 5-0 record, Cull has 21 tackles, a caused fumble and two broken-up passes. That is less than his linebacker mates (Dwenger has 47 tackles and O’Neal has 38 stops) but that is the way the position is designed.

Gaddis said Cull is, indeed, having an outstanding season.

“I think we all are playing very well,” Cull said of East’s linebacking crew. “I just like hitting people.

“Our defense has a certain feel to it. We are a brotherhood.”

Cull admits that it took him some time to get back into football condition after taking a year off. “Things started to slow down at the end of last season,” he said. “Now everything seems a lot slower to me. I feel like I am making the right reads.”

It helps that he plays alongside Dwenger and O’Neal.

“It’s kind of an honor just to play with Sam (Dwenger),” Cull said. “I look up to him because he is a two-time, all-state linebacker. He is also a great leader. He makes me more of a leader when I play alongside him because he rubs off on me.

“And T.C. is like a missile.”

Although Cull turned away from football as a sophomore, Gaddis said he has been there for every workout since he came back.

“Nick is like a lot of the guys on this team,” Gaddis said. “He is very dependable. He always is just there.”

He not only is there at workouts, he is there when the running back tries to get through a hole.

“I’m doing better than last year,” he said. “I’m seeing the windows (holes) better. I am filling the gap.”

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Nick Cull

SCHOOL: Columbus East

YEAR: Senior

POSITION: ‘Sam’ linebacker

SIZE: 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

STATISTICS: 5 games, 21 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 caused fumble, 2 passes defensed