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Former hoops star begins NFL career
Bullock’s pro debut with New York Jets set for July 27
BY NICK CAMINO
J’Nathan Bullock was a four-year basketball legend at Cleveland State University. But make no mistake; he says he believes football may be his ticket to the pros.
After not being selected in the 2009 NFL Draft this past April, Bullock could have simply given up on his dreams.
With 32 teams passing on him seven times, the easy thing for the former CSU student athlete to do would be to feel sorry for himself and move in another direction. Perhaps he could even look for an opportunity related to his impressive college major in mechanical engineering.
However, Bullock never lost his faith and quickly signed on to try out with the New York Jets. He will attend their NFL training camp on July 27 to compete for a roster spot as a tight end, a position head coach Rex Ryan’s team desperately needs.
Going from the Horizon League Championship, to the NCAA Tournament, to a pro day workout for 20 NFL teams, to being signed by the Jets, to rookie mini-camp has been trying indeed, Bullock said through an e-mail July 2.
“After rookie camp ended things finally began to settle down,” Bullock explained. “But I can’t complain, this is what I asked for.”
Bullock, who averaged 15.2 ppg this past season for CSU on the hardwood, began receiving interest during the 2009 NCAA Tournament from NFL teams around the country.
Bullock's journey from college to the pros has been unconventional.
The Jets, as well as the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns showed the most interest in him after the Vikings season ended.
Once the two day long NFL Draft finally ended on April 26 and he was not selected, Bullock received a call from the Jets. Despite not drafting him, the Jets wanted the former Flint Northern High School star to sign with their storied franchise and be at their mini-camp in June.
The Jets were the only franchise who sent an actual coach to the pro day held under the dome at Krenzler Field, Bullock said, referring to New York tight ends and offensive line coach Mike Devlin.
“From the beginning of my workouts until now, Coach Devlin has really been helping me,” Bullock said.
Since then, Bullock has survived the rookie mini-camp and is looking forward to beginning training camp at the end of July.
“Things have happened so fast I have not gotten the chance to just sit back and enjoy all of this,” Bullock said. “But I am excited for it all to begin.”
Ever since he was being recruited out of high school it was known that he could play football at the next level, former Vikings head coach Mike Garland said.
“While I was recruiting him for basketball to come to CSU, Notre Dame, Iowa and Colorado were recruiting him to play football,” Garland explained over the phone from his office in East Lansing, Mich. where he is an assistant coach for Michigan State. “His first love was basketball. That’s why he came to play at CSU, but it is no surprise that he will be playing in the NFL.”
“J’Nathan is a big time athlete,” Garland added. “If he was two or three inches taller he could have played basketball at Michigan State.”
Bullock, 22, knows the transition from the hardwood to the gridiron is not impossible either. The former small forward is well aware of Antonio Gates’ story.
Gates, a member of Kent State University’s 2002 Elite Eight basketball team went on to play tight end for the San Diego Chargers. Like Bullock, he had only played in high school.
And if that recent history is not enough, Bullock’s faith just might be.
“I have a strong belief that God has placed me here for a reason,” the 6-5, 240 lbs. Bullock said. “I feel like I can do some great things here.”
Bullock was a first-team All Horizon League selection this past basketball season, and led CSU to a memorable 26-11 season that included a Horizon League Championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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