I walked by the weight room the other day and looked in the window. Inside working out was Class of 2012 graduate and current Los Angeles Charger, Sean Culkin. Since it isn’t every day that we have a celebrity on our campus, I went in and talked to him.
Sean was another one of our “lifers” at Indian Rocks Christian School. He started here in Pre-School and attended IRCS for 15 years in total. He had only positive comments to share about his time here at school. He said, “My favorite thing was the teachers. All of them had impact on me. Coaches Buchanan, Kinsey, and Frost were very special because of the coach / player relationship. But I would have to say that the teacher that impacted my life the most was Ben Futoran. I had Mr. Futoran for Physics and he made it fun to learn. At one point at the end of a quarter, my grade was stuck at 89%. I was the only one in the class that didn’t have an A so I really wanted to get it. Mr. Futoran offered an extra credit project of writing a Christian Manifesto. Basically, I had to write what I believed in and why. I really had to think through everything I knew as a Christian. This project actually made my faith my own, not just my mom and dad’s faith that I was living under. I was also able to go on mission trips to Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Tuscaloosa in high school. I don’t think any other high school could have prepared me more spiritually than Indian Rocks did.” This led to me asking if he felt prepared academically as well. He replied that he felt “really prepared” academically. His biggest challenge was adjusting to the size of the University of Missouri, an NCAA Division I school. Some of his classes were in lecture halls with several hundred students.
There have always been a couple of questions that I have wanted to ask a Christian pro athlete so I tried them out on Sean. Some feel that to get noticed in sports an athlete really needs to be in a school larger than IRCS, I asked if he ever thought about jumping to a larger school when he was here. He said, “Yes, after my sophomore year we looked around, but I loved the other athletes and the coaches so much, we decided to stay. This turned out to be a really good thing for me as others who left either got caught up in wrong things or ended up going nowhere at all. I was able to get a scholarship to a D-1 school and be a starter there as a freshman.” Sean played 3 sports in high school (football, basketball, and track). I asked him if he would do it that way again or if he would specialize in just one sport and play it year round. He replied, “I definitely would play 3 sports again. Many of my teammates in the NFL were multi-sport athletes when they were in school. You learn and develop more from playing different sports.” I asked Sean if it was hard to be a Christian as a pro athlete. His response surprised me a little. He said, “It was actually harder in college. When you are first out on your own and you are still that young, it can be difficult to always make good choices. In the pros a lot of guys have God as a big part of their life and it makes it a little easier.”
Finally, I asked him how did this all happen, making the team with the Los Angeles Chargers? He told me that he didn’t get drafted but was invited as a priority free agent to training camp. He also had invitations from the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Green Bay Packers. He decided to go to the Chargers camp because he liked the way they use their tight ends, the position he plays in the offense. During training camp, Tuesdays were cut days. He said, “I thought every Tuesday that this is the day I will get cut.” That day never came. After a little research I found out that only 5% of the undrafted free agents that go to training camp make the team. This led me to dig deeper. Only 5.8% of high school football players go on to play regularly in college. Of those, only 2% make it as a pro. This means the chances of a high school football player making it to the NFL is .09%! This makes the fact that Sean did it even more incredible! He has a nickname from his teammates. They call him Thor. I asked him how that came about (besides the fact that he is incredibly muscular, tall, and has a flowing blonde head of hair). He said it started in college and kind of carried over. He shared a story of when he was young. He went to see the movie Thor with his dad and his brother, Ryan. He said, “I’m gonna be Thor someday.” His account is that Ryan said, “You’ll never be Thor, you’re too skinny.” What do you think now, Ryan?
Sean has set an incredible example to our students of what can be achieved as an athlete at Indian Rocks Christian School. Thank you, Sean. We are so proud of you.