Daquaris McCullough: A rare breed of student-athlete

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Every team has its own cast of characters. There are the stars that make the individual plays that win and lose games. There are role players around them that may not get the same recognition, but are as important to success as anyone else.

Then there are the players that leave a mark behind the scenes. They’re the role models, and there are few model student-athletes like Daquaris McCullough.

“He has great character,” athletic director and defensive coordinator Jon Blank said. “He possesses the traits that somebody who will be successful possesses. He overcomes a lot of challenges, manages his time well and he’s motivated for success. He’s one of those guys that has that internal drive to achieve.

“DQ is a great example of what someone can do if they decide they want to do it.”

McCullough recently wrapped up his Washington football career. The 5-foot-10, 280-pound lineman finished his varsity tenure with 88 tackles (33 solo), two sacks and a forced fumble and a recovery. He notched 51 of those tackles as a senior.

The journey began at the recreation level. McCullough grew up in Virginia before moving to Greenville in the eighth grade. He transferred from South Central High School to Washington as a freshman.

“I played in rec because it’s what all my friends were doing. I liked it, so I just kept going on,” he said.

McCullough quickly climbed the Pam Pack ranks from junior varsity to varsity. It didn’t take him long to make an impact. McCullough, as a sophomore on the varsity squad, helped the Pam Pack go all the way to the 2014 state championship game.

“It was great. It was with people I looked up to. I looked up to all those guys,” McCullough said, naming players like Lexroy Brown, Brandon Jackson, Jamond Ebron and Rayekwon Satterwaithe as some of his role models.

“I picked up from them motivation. I see them get plays and say, ‘I want to get plays just like them. I want to have my name out there, too.’”

That motivation — that drive to do his very best in everything he does — is the true legacy that McCullough leaves at Washington. On top of all the work he put into football over the last few years, McCullough is an accomplished student and works part time on the weekends.

“I always try to do good in my classes,” he said. “I’m not just taking regular classes, but I like to take honors and (Advanced Placement) classes to challenge myself.”

Blank said: “He’s a leader in the classroom. When you look at his grades and the way he handles himself inside the school building, he’s a model student-athlete. … We want all of our kids to achieve academically and athletically. DQ is a great example of that.”

Daquaris McCullough (No. 78) rumbles toward a Southwest Edgecombe ball carrier, looking to stop him in his tracks.

Daquaris McCullough (No. 78) rumbles toward a Southwest Edgecombe ball carrier, looking to stop him in his tracks.

McCullough enjoys science and social studies classes. He isn’t sure where he’s going to college yet, but he’s considering studying pre-law. He boasts a 4.16 grade-point average, so there should be plenty of schools clamoring for him.

“He may not have met all of his goals on the field this year, as far as wins and losses are concerned, but he’s going to have a bright future,” Blank said. “Unfortunately, most football players don’t make it beyond high school for football. Most of them are going to go into something else, and you have to have the academic portion to make sure you can do that.”

McCullough has worked hard over the last few years. Balancing athletics, work and school hasn’t been easy, but with graduation nearing, it’s starting to pay off.

“It was a lot to balance,” he said. “Not only was I playing football, but I’m working on the weekends, too. It was hard. I had no ambition to do work after football practice, but I couldn’t do it on weekends.”

But he did. At work, in the classroom and on the field, McCullough gave everything he did every bit of effort he could. He’s set an example for what a student-athlete should be not just in high school, but also at any level. He’s the kind of player that coaches dream of.

McCullough did some great things on the gridiron, but that, more than anything, will be his Pam Pack legacy.