Tremane McCullough helps Royal Palm Beach rise to 4-1 while making changes off the field
Monday, October 10, 2011
by Matt Porter
Royal Palm Beach's Tremane McCullough breaks open for yardage in a recent game. (Photo by Brandon Kruse /The Palm Beach Post)
He's generously listed at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, but Royal Palm Beach senior Tremane McCullough has a combination of track-star speed and lateral quickness that has made him a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
McCullough is one of the main reasons why Royal Palm, 1-9 a year ago, is 4-1 this season.
But to be a team leader on the field, McCullough had to grow up off it. Almost leaving Royal Palm Beach last year after having problems with a teacher, McCullough has straightened out this season, becoming a leader around campus, according to administrators.
"I wouldn't have thought that was possible for this kid," Royal Palm Beach Athletic Director Brian Joros said.
The turnaround can be credited, in part, to new coach Willie Bueno. When Bueno took over in February, he sat down with McCullough and asked him what his goals were.
"He said he wanted to be a recruited guy," Bueno said. "I told him, I've had guys who have gone on to be recruited guys. I know what they look like, and I know what they act like. They don't act like you're acting, and they don't do what you do."
McCullough made a change. Instead of blaming his teammates, he became a vocal supporter. Instead of shutting out teachers, he asked for help in the classroom.
"I'm proud of him," Bueno said. "He's been what we thought he could be."
And he's shining on Friday nights as well. Through five games, he has rushed for 804 yards and 13 touchdowns on 90 carries and has caught six passes for 112 yards and a touchdown.
McCullough says he wants to make his late brother, Tavaris McCullough proud of him.
In July 2007, 21-year-old Tavaris McCullough was shot and killed by an off-duty sheriff's deputy at a club in Riviera Beach. At the time of the shooting, he was attending to his cousin, who had been shot by an unknown person at the club.
The state attorney's office ruled the shooting justified, confirming the deputy's testimony that the officer fired after McCullough raised his weapon.
Tremane said his brother took him to his youth football games and helped him with homework, a successful amateur boxer who showed him how to train, how to stand up and fight.
"He taught me everything I knew," McCullough said. "I'm never going to get over it. It hurt me so much."
Royal Palm suffered further tragedy last season when, a week before fall practice began, Ja'Quavious Willingham, 17, was shot and killed outside a Royal Palm Beach apartment. Willingham was a Wildcats player and the brother of Curtis Pryor, now a sophomore and the team's leading receiver.
"He got along with everybody. Everybody hung around with him," McCullough said of Willingham. "Everybody loved him, and we all kept him close."
Now McCullough is trying to help Royal Palm improve on the field while also retaining the memory of his brother by making good choices in school.
"I just know I have to stay focused," McCullough said. "I have to make him proud."