By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.
The doubters have always
been there, telling Reggie Bullock he wasn't big enough to become a
They started when Bullock
made the varsity as a freshman at Weston High School in Las Vegas, and
again when college recruiters began pursuing him as a senior at Las
Vegas High. Over the past year, Bullock's size — he's 5-foot-9 and
weighs about 180 pounds — has also come into question as he completed
his sophomore season at Arizona Western College in Yuma, AZ.
“I hear it all the time,''
Bullock said. “A lot of people are always criticizing me (for) my size
and telling me I'm not big enough to play at this school or that school.
But I always prove them wrong once I get the opportunity to play.''
The dynamic running back
surprised his doubters by rushing for more than 1,000 yards in three
straight high school seasons. He did it again with back-to-back
1,000-yard seasons at Arizona Western where in 2010 he was named the
national junior college offensive player of the year.
But despite those
accolades at Arizona Western, many major-college programs shied away
from Bullock because — you guessed it — his size.
“I think a lot of schools,
like in the Pac-10 and Big Ten, looked at him and didn't think he was
tough enough or big enough. They were afraid of his size,'' Matadors
coach Tom Minnick said. “But those schools made a mistake.''
One school that focused on
Bullock's physical skills instead of his drawbacks was East Carolina.
The Pirates considered him one of the prizes in the recruiting class
they signed earlier this month and are expecting him to make an
immediate impact in their backfield next fall.
The Pirates needed to
acquire a back in recruiting who could be ready to play next fall due to
graduation losses that have claimed their top two running backs from
2010, Jonathan Williams and Giavanni Ruffin.
Bullock hopes to continue
his success at ECU after turning down offers from Arkansas State,
Hawaii, Memphis, New Mexico State, North Texas and Utah State.
“I'm going to bring a
winning attitude, a team player, explosiveness, a great work ethic and
absolute excitement,'' Bullock said. “It really doesn't matter what type
of offense it is, I'll work into it. I've played in the I formation, the
spread, the pistol ... I can adjust.''
Bullock is used to making
adjustments in football and life.
He grew up around the
glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas strip as one of seven children (five
girls, two boys). Bullock's father, Reggie Hicks, had been a star
running back at Las Vegas' Chaparral High School. But Reggie himself
didn't get his first chance to play the game until after his father died
suddenly of a heart attack at age 33.
“I was in the sixth grade
... June 19, 2000,'' Bullock said. “My Dad passed away in 2000 and I
decided to play football that year.''
Bullock's uncle, John, and
mother, Mia Hicks, encouraged Reggie to try football to help him
overcome his father's passing. He has played every down since inspired
by his father's memory.
“I know he'd be excited if
he were here at this time,'' said Bullock, who first played wide
receiver for his Pop Warner squad, then wide receiver and safety before
moving to running back his third season.
Bullock would develop so
fast that he earned a starting job at running back for Weston High as a
freshman. He'd play two more seasons for Weston before transferring to
Las Vegas High for his senior year.
The final prep statistics
for Bullock are impressive. He finished with 4,242 yards rushing and 49
touchdowns. He also added 951 yards and 11 scores receiving and was
all-league three times on defense, too.
College football powers
like Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Florida State and Florida all came to Las
Vegas to recruit Bullock by his senior year. But he failed to qualify
academically and couldn't accept any offers from those schools.
Instead, Bullock headed
off to Arizona Western where he was a starter from the moment he walked
“He made a play that
freshman year that sticks in everyone's mind,'' Minnick said. “We're
running power. He took a step in the A gap, popped back out and then
back into the A gap again. He went back inside for a 40-yard touchdown
“That's the signature play
we all kind of remember about Reggie.''
Bullock completed his
two-year career at Arizona Western with 3,004 career rushing yards and
37 touchdowns. He capped his stay by earning national JUCO offensive
player of the year honors for gaining 1,707 yards on 272 carries and
scoring 20 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Numerous schools were
recruiting Bullock, but East Carolina wasn't one of them until early
January. When the Pirates came calling the first time, he thought “East
Carolina was in Charlotte. I had no idea where Greenville was located.''
Bullock received a strong
recommendation about ECU's coaching staff from Arizona Western running
backs coach John Norman. Norman played for Pirate head coach Ruffin
McNeill and many of his assistants during his college career as a
linebacker at Texas Tech.
“He (Norman) said it (ECU)
would be a good fit for me,'' said Bullock, who immediately set up an
official visit to Greenville on Jan. 14.
“I was kind of surprised.
I didn't think it would be as much as it turned out to be,'' Bullock
said. “The coaches talked about academics. They made it clear that
academics come first, and I liked that. The facilities were outstanding.
I just liked everything about it.''
Bullock will complete his
Associate of Arts degree from Arizona Western in May and plans to arrive
in Greenville this summer.
Minnick thinks Bullock is
a perfect fit for ECU's passing offense.
“He's got great hands,''
Minnick said. “We used him in our five-receiver sets, and he played
inside receiver for us a bunch. He can run the ball or catch it out of
“East Carolina is getting
a great steal. He's a great football player and a great person.''