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One of the guys

Viking football team welcomes manager David McCullough on the sidelines and makes him feel like part of the team

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Few people get to enjoy true bliss in their life. David McCullough gets to every time he steps on the Charlo football field.

The 18-year-old with Down syndrome has been the Viking football manager the past four years and during this span there hasn’t been a bigger Viking fan.

“I mean he looks forward to the season all year. He stays every single night, when there’s practices. I see him out on the field doing all the exercises. He’s totally part of the team. The boys include him in everything,” said Shirley Henderson, the Charlo resource room teacher. “He just loves football...after school he knows the first thing he’s going to do is run out on the field and if he can’t go it’s devastating.”

When McCullough was a freshman, his mother Karen approached former Charlo coach Steve Love about having McCullough help him on the sidelines. Love said he was never worried about how his team would treat him.

“The thing about our kids here is they do such a good job of looking out for everybody and they are so accepting of other kids. They treated him well and looked after him,” Love said.

Having McCullough on the sidelines the past four years has benefited everybody involved in the football program, Love said.

“It’s been good for everybody. We live in a world where you need to get along with everyone and understand everybody. And it’s helped out our kids that way. And it’s helped David a lot, because he has grown up a lot, too,” Love said.

The Viking players made McCullough feel so welcome that’s there not a moment of hesitation, when you ask him if he’s part of the team.

“Yes, I am part of the team,” said McCullough, while wearing his team jacket in Love’s office Thursday. McCullough also has a team jersey.

While there’s no doubt that McCullough is part of the team, how big of part is still up for debate. As a manager, McCullough has a lot of duties. He’s in charge of the game ball during the games, he makes sure his teammates get water during timeouts, he washes their towels, but if you ask McCullough, he is also a player and a coach.

“During that first year, David would bring me at least one drawn-up play a day during the week and then he would usually follow me on the sideline and imitate whatever I was doing...Usually when I got upset I threw grass and I’d kneel down and crouch and I would look over and David would be right next to me doing the same thing,” Love said. “So I guess that’s flattering, because imitation is the highest form of flattery.”

McCullough is more than a manager, coach and player, he is also a friend to all the Vikings. When asked if he has some favorite players, McCullough instantly starts to rattle off the Vikings’ starting lineup.

“I like Chico, Tra, Austin Bauer, Chance Rosenbaum, Kolton,” McCullough said

“You like them all, don’t you, David?” Henderson asked.

“Yes,” David quickly answered.

Rosenbaum, the Charlo senior who drove McCullough to all the team dinners, said you have no choice but to be friends with McCullough.

“He puts himself out there. He makes you like him,” Rosenbaum said. “He’s your friend. He tries talking to everybody and he likes everybody.”

With McCullough around things are always interesting, said Rosenbaum. Like the team dinner, where they had three types of taco meat: junior varsity, varsity and coaches, with the spiciest of the meat rising with each level. After trying the first two types of meat, McCullough took a big bite of the coaches’ meat and immediately started crying, but if Rosenbaum tells the story, McCullough is quick to point out he wasn’t really crying.

“He always says ‘no, no, no, my eyes just started watering,’” Rosenbaum said.

There has been a learning process with having McCullough on the sidelines and one thing the Vikings had to learn is to let him come out on top during the drills. In practice, Rosenbaum said they make sure McCullough always gets past the offensive linemen and tackles the running back during drills.

“He enjoys it when he wins. If he doesn’t win, it’s not a good thing,” Rosenbaum said.

McCullough has enjoyed his time so much on the field that he want to be the field manager for the Washington State University and paint the lines on the field.

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