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Deland McCullough II on transfer to IU: “I’m back home”

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Son of IU’s running backs coach grew up in Bloomington and cherishes the opportunity to play for the team he’s long supported

Michigan State v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The walls inside Indiana’s North End Zone complex are familiar to Deland McCullough II.

That’s because long before he was a college football player, and longer still before he had his own stall inside IU’s locker room, Deland II was a Bloomington kid simply happy to follow his dad to work. In Deland II’s case, that meant long days spent bouncing around the Hoosiers’ football facility, where he pictured himself one day donning a cream and crimson uniform of his own.

Those memories have been top of mind since Deland II decided to transfer to IU from Miami (Ohio) in late April and reunite with his father, Deland McCullough, who was rehired in February as IU’s running backs coach. Now a Hoosier defensive back, Deland II is excited to be part of a Big Ten program. He’s happy to be spending more time around his family and, maybe as much as anything, he’s glad to be doing it all in a place he knows well.

“Man, it’s eye-opening,” Deland II said last week. “When I’m working out, I’m like, ‘Man, I remember when I was in here and I was 13 or something like that, just trying to work out.’ It’s been a long road, but I’m really excited.”

The McCulloughs are once again making themselves at home in Bloomington, a town they came to love while the elder Deland McCullough served his first stint as IU’s running backs coach from 2011 through the 2016 season. Deland II, like his younger brothers Daeh and Dasan — both Indiana commits, themselves — spent his formative years in Monroe County, attending Bloomington North before his father left IU to take a similar job at Southern California in early 2017.

So getting the chance to come back and play for what he considers to be his hometown school feels to Deland II like a wish come true.

“I had dreams of playing at IU even when I was young when my dad was coaching here,” Deland II said. “We were here for six seasons and I fell in love with it when I was young here in Bloomington; IU football and everything — the atmosphere. It just became a reality here within the last couple of months.”

A three-star athlete in the 2019 recruiting class, Deland II signed with his father’s alma mater over offers from Kentucky, Rutgers, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Western Kentucky and Illinois State, among others. In Oxford, Ohio, Deland II played in two games for the Redhawks last fall, splitting his time between the defensive backfield and special teams.

At IU, Deland II will work his way into the mix at safety during fall camp in August.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing on a big stage,” he said. “This is something that I’m hoping that I can take full advantage of and go out there and show everybody what I can do.”

When his father decided in February to leave his job as running backs coach with the Kansas City Chiefs and return to IU, Deland II had no thoughts about moving back to Indiana, himself. But the idea became more appealing as he considered the possibility.

Playing on the same staff that employs his dad? Eventually sharing a locker room with his brothers? Very few college football players get those kinds of opportunities, and Deland II didn’t want to pass them up.

“When he got the job here at Indiana, it didn’t even cross my mind,” Deland II said. “It was something that just kind of happened due to other circumstances. I decided that it was something that I wanted to do. With further conversations with my dad and the coaches here after I entered the portal, they made it happen.”

And now Deland II is glad to be at a place that he knows — and knows him — quite well.

“It’s exciting to be back,” he said. “I’m back home. I’m happy to be here. It’s been a great experience so far.”