By Jerrell Richardson
Chris Culliver, CB, #29
Height: 6 ft 1 in
Weight: 201 lbs
Hometown: Garner, North Carolina
College: South Carolina
Experience: 2 years
When the San Francisco 49ers drafted cornerback Chris Culliver in the 2011 draft, they had the normal questions that any team will have concerning a rookie. It’s easy to watch film to get an idea of a players physical talents, but you can’t measure character and work ethic. The franchise has always been concerned with getting players that are not only talented at what they do, but who also go about their business in the right way, and in Chris Culliver they got both. Culliver has a story like few others, and his journey has helped him realize how important it is to cherish every day. So when he has to go over countless hours of game film, or make another rep in the weight room, or line up opposite Calvin Johnson one-on-one and told to lock down the All-Pro Detroit Lions receiver, you won’t hear Culliver complain. He is just happy to be alive and doing what he loves to do, play football.
Best In The State
Growing up in North Carolina, Culliver did it all on the football field. He played defense, offense and special teams, and by the end of his senior season was considered by many to be the best player in his state. He turned down offers to play at both Florida and NC State to stay somewhat close to home and become a South Carolina Gamecock. He continued to show the versatility that earned him a college scholarship, setting the schools record for kick returns and becoming a regular starter in just his second year. He also showed that he was taking his academics seriously, making the Fall Academic Honor Roll in 2009.
In his final season, he moved from safety to cornerback and played well at his new position before a torn pectoral muscle ended his season. Few would have been willing make the jump to a new position, especially as a senior, as it could destroy a player’s chance at being drafted. Thanks to one day that changed Culliver’s outlook on life, he did not look at the situation as a chance to hurt his draft day position, but as a chance to help his team. More importantly, he just felt lucky to be alive.
It was supposed to be a routine shoulder surgery in February of 2009, but it became much more. It was unknown at the time that he had malignant hyperthermia, so the general anesthesia used for the surgery reacted badly to Culliver’s body, resulting in his heart going into cardiac arrest. With the help of a ventilator, Culliver fought for his life for three long days before pulling through. The then-20 year old recalls waking up with tubes in his mouth unaware of what was going on, and seeing a close friend crying in joy at the sight of his open eyes. He was later told how close he was to death, he has lived his life since cherishing each moment.
In just his second year as a pro, Culliver has gained the trust of his coaches and has been asked to cover some of the best receivers in the game. His past safety experience make him invaluable in nickel situations and has also slowed down his learning curve. Unlike most of the other players on the field, he started playing his position shortly before entering the NFL, and thus he has a lot to learn. However, he has already shown the ability to quickly pick up a new position, and there is no questioning his athletic ability. His goal is to one day take over the starting position, but he realizes that life is a gift in itself and that football is his icing on the cake. He views the hard work required daily in his profession as the least he can do with his second chance at life. He brings a refreshing perspective to a sport that often times loses sight of the fact that it is just a game.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.