In 2002, the mid-major Kent State Golden Flashes wreaked havoc on plenty of brackets by making it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. A big reason for this success was the play of forward Antonio Gates. At 6’4″, 260 pounds, Gates had a relatively successful career at the collegiate basketball level by averaging 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds between his one season at Eastern Michigan and the two that followed at Kent State. He ultimately made First Team All-MAC as a Senior.
The rest of Gates’ “career” is now well known as he switched sports by signing with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent. Since then, he has broken the NFL record for tight end touchdowns within a season with 13 and has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times, three times as a First Team All-Pro.
And now with his senior basketball season behind him, Cleveland State’s J’Nathan Bullock has a decision to make. He will widely be considered too small to succeed at the next level on the hardwood. But as it stands right now, Bullock would like to follow Gates’ lead and give it a shot in the NFL.
Bullock is very similar in size to the aforementioned Gates, being listed at 6’5″, 240 pounds. Also akin to the Kent State standout, Bullock did not play football in college. Mostly because Cleveland State does not even have a football program, but partly due to the fact that he was focused on his endeavor that lead to 1,800 points scored. In his senior season, Bullock averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds - comparable to those of Gates. And like his would-be predecessor, Bullock was named to his conferences First Team.
When in high school, Bullock was very versatile on the football field. He played on both sides of the ball including wide receiver, tight end and linebacker. At the professional level, he would obviously be focusing his efforts as a tight end though he loved playing running back.
Many question his ability to translate the game in terms of the ever-discussed “Football IQ.” Bullock will graduate from Cleveland State this spring with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Now, as Craig Krenzel showed the world a few years back, intelligence does not always equal success on the football field. However, given Bullock’s athleticism and the skill set that he has shown on the basketball court (physical play, soft hands), there is little question as to why Bullock feels he can make an impact in the NFL.
Reportedly, several NFL teams have already contacted Gary Waters about Bullock’s future, including the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland State is holding a “pro day” next Friday, and there will likely be several team scouts in attendance. There is little chance that Bullock will be drafted come this April, but the Gates story shows that this is only a minor road block if the ability and the dedication are there. I doubt many fans would be upset if their team gave him a shot.
Sure, the CSU Vikings making the tournament and ultimately upsetting Wake Forest was a great feel-good story for the mid-major program. However, if this tournament bid – and the inherent exposure cast on to the team – results in a professional career of any of the players, I think we can all agree that the fairy tale may not even be complete.
Vikings hoops star J’Nathan Bullock wants to take a long shot at NFL [Joe Maxse/Plain Dealer]