Many people in and around football tend to hold the belief that some people are just too nice for the game. You can be the nicest guy in the world during your day-to-day life, but when you get on the field, it’s though, you have to approach with a different, much more aggressive mindset.
If you look at the career trajectory of Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Daniel McCullers, then you’ll find evidence to support this hypothesis. Even though he is 6’7”, 352 pounds, too often offensive linemen haven’t had too much difficulty moving him around, which is the exact opposite of what the team is looking to get out of him.
Entering his fifth season, however, there is a belief that he is starting to realize what he needs to do to be successful on the field. He’s motivated by the same things every other player is motivated by—money, for one thing. Re-signed to a one-year contract, he told Jeremy Fowler that he is looking for more than that.
“I want a multiple-year deal”, he told the ESPN writer. “I just have to work hard and grind my ass off so they can sign me for multiple years and I can make that money, set up my family to be good”.
We had heard all too frequently over the past four years about what McCullers needs to do for it all to finally ‘click’, to unleash his potential, only to see it never happen. There is always and ‘if’ preceding every attempt at praise. If he can turn it on and play with an edge…
Well, that is what he is looking to figure out this year. Even his family understands. His sister told Fowler, “we’re really trying to figure that out for him, how to turn it on and off”, speaking of the aggression one needs to play with to compete in the NFL. “He’s had to realize”, she said, that getting angry is “’what I need to do for my job’”.
Which I’m sure is exactly what many of you have been wanting to hear all along. The first step to addressing a problem is identifying and acknowledging it. “It’s me”, he said, “mentally. I’m stopping myself” from having the success on the field he needs to have to forge a career.
While he’s just gotten here himself, defensive line back Karl Dunbar also believes that he sees a difference in McCullers. “I think his effort and his attitude has changed”, he said, “and you can see it in his performance in practice and especially in the game last week”.
According to his sister, what we’re really seeing is not just the advancement of a football player, but the slow maturation of a man. Though he’s entering his fifth year in the league, it’s worth pointing out that he only just turned 26 years old, so he’s still fairly young.
“This is really a transformation of a shy, young guy who stayed to himself to a man who’s assertive and interested and wants more with his life”, McCullers’ sister said. “He’s always been the one everyone thought wouldn’t make it, so to prove not just to other people but himself that he can play at a high level for a long time, I’m so proud of him, because he did this all on his own”.