NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - When Cullen Coleman arrived at Rye Country Day School in ninth grade, the tight end/tackle was told he was going to run the ball. No one could have predicted the level of success he’d have at the position, but then again no one expected Cullen to grow to be 6-3 and weigh 220 pounds by the time he was a junior.
Cullen will turn 17 in early April and has already been visited by some of the top programs in the country, including Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Purdue and Boston College.
In mid-February, Nick Saban personally gave Cullen a scholarship offer to play for the University of Alabama.
Cullen, who also played outside linebacker this past season, had a memorable visit in Tuscaloosa with Bama’s head coach, who had a few—six to be exact—persuasive recruiting tools at his fingertips. Saban had his championship rings laid out on his desk as he had a long discussion about Cullen’s future with the prospect and his parents.
“We were all like to ‘be cool’ because Saban was right in front of us,” Cullen said. “We didn’t want to go crazy or anything. My parents were in the room, they were also very excited about it. We were happy to have that experience with Alabama and offer it was pretty amazing”
Just meeting the legendary coach was the highlight of the trip for Cullen, but Saban also left him with some advice: “Do you want to be the type of person that does what they have to do? …or be the person that does what they feel like doing?”
Cullen will do whatever it takes to fulfill his dream of becoming a “big-time” football player—adding he will play wherever the coaching staff at Alabama wants him. That is, of course, if he decides to commit with the Crimson Tide
What sets Cullen apart is his rare combination of size and speed. A quick look at Cullen’s tape from this past season and it’s clear—he’s absolutely explosive out of the backfield. This kid passes the eye test…and then some.
John Calandros, coach at RCDS, says on any given day that Cullen can easily move past one tackler and then run over the next one.
“Football is a game of a lot of measurables and I think that this is the next stereotype that’s going to be broken: Being one of the biggest kids on the field and also one of the fastest—the most explosive,” said Calandros.
This past season was Cullen’s breakout year, something he credits to finally growing into his body and getting used to his size.
“He really started to dominate this year,” says Allan Houston III, the son of Knicks great Allan Houston and his teammate. “We played King in Stanford—maybe 30 seconds left in the game, we were up by touchdown and he just took it to the house—50 yards… just put a dagger in it. It was crazy, no one ever expected that—that was one play where you’re like… he’s pretty good.”
Cullen is the reigning private school 100-meter dash champion and is mathematically inclined—so much so, his mother would like him to major in engineering. Cullen is leaning more towards a business degree. Either way he says the academic rigors at RCDS have prepared him for the next level of his education. He joked that he’s heard that his school is harder than college—and he’s hopes that’s true.
While Cullen is seemingly gifted at everything he tries, the athlete’s mom, Liz, says he’s not very good at doing the dishes after he eats—his size might not be that of your typical teenager, but his habits are.
“We used to make fun of him, because basketball wasn’t his strong suit,” explains his teammate, sophomore linebacker, Oliver Kies. “But now he’s 6-3, he’s awesome — everything sports wise, he’s usually the best.”
Oliver claims that he can allegedly beat Cullen at video games, but when Cullen was informed of this revelation—he just laughed it off.
Regardless of whose better at Madden, Oliver consider Cullen a great friend and teammate.
“He’s selfless. He’s a force out there. He leads by example and he’s someone that everyone can look up too.”
Juggling both school and the recruiting process has proven to be a tricky balance for Cullen.
“It’s hard at times,” said Cullen. “Because I have homework to do—especially at the school that I go to. There’s a lot of homework and it’s very academic driven. All these coaches hit me up on Twitter or text me or who I talk to on the phone—it takes up a lot of time and also the work that it takes to make sure that I have all the schools on the list or know who’s who and who’s recruiting me positions, coaches and stuff, it’s hard at times—and it’s pretty overwhelming, but I try to make sure I can deal with that and my parents help with that.”
His brother, Cameron, helped Cullen create an Excel spreadsheet to keep all his new contacts organized. Cameron is a defensive tackle and will be attending Columbia next year.
“It was definitely really interesting,” Cameron says about playing alongside his brother for the Wildcats. “Especially when people get our names mixed up a lot when one of us had a really big play on the field—which is probably every other play, because we were just all over the place. But it was good to really spread the Coleman name around.”
Despite Cameron joking that his younger brother will be happy to have the house to himself next year, the two are very close. Cameron says they can simply just look at one another to know what’s going on with the other—no words needed.
“Very smooth,” that’s how Cameron described his brother’s playing style. “He’ll recognize mistakes he’ll have though. He’ll seem really cool chill, like ‘oh it was a mistake,’ but I know for a fact, in his head—he’ll do that over and over… just replay it until it’s absolutely perfect mentally and then he’ll put it on the field and make it absolutely perfect physically.”
His mother, Liz, describes Cullen as very calm, cool and collected, but he’s impressed her with the way he’s handled the spotlight.
“He’s always been levelheaded and chill,” says Liz. “I didn’t expect to see that level—that sort of maturity at such a young age.”
Cullen, who lives in Port Chester, knows he’s the best prospect out of Westchester Country since Harrison’s Sammy Maldonado. Maldonado was a top ten recruit in the class of 2000 and committed to Ohio State.
It’s a good amount of pressure,” says Cullen. “People know me and they see that this kid is the No. 1 prospect in 20 years and they expect big things from you and you don’t wanna let them down… you don’t wanna be the guy that was a bust—I guess—so there’s pressure, but I believe I can live up to the hype.”