The last few years I’ve had the pleasure of following the careers of several great QB’s. One of them, Charles McCullum first came to my attention in June of 2014 when he led the Nashville Venom into the Richmond Coliseum and absolutely killed the Richmond Raiders. The teams were together in the PIFL for two seasons and finished up 2-2 against each other. While McCullum led the Venom to the league championship in 2015, he lost to Richmond in the 2014 playoffs. After making the jump to indoor football McCullum has become the most dominant QB in the IFL winning the league MVP two years in a row. The Nighthawks are almost certainly moving to the CIF for 2018. Whether it’s arena, or indoor, McCullum has thrived and has
become a fan favorite every where he’s traveled. He agreed to give me a few minutes for an interview, but he was so much fun to speak with we ended up talking to each other for 45 minutes. Below are the highlights of our conversation. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed interviewing him.
Jay Luster (JL) You had a good season this year?
Charles McCullum (CL) Yes sir. First of all, I want to thank God for the season and for my coaches. It would not have been possible without them. My offensive line, my receivers all coming together on the same page and becoming consistent all at the same time helped to make this season special. Too bad it couldn’t click when we needed it to At the end.
(JL)You’ve won the MVP award the last two years in a row so you’re definitely putting up the numbers, but you’ve had some difficulty getting in and winning in the postseason?
(CM) It was a heartbreaking experience for me and my teammates. It’s a little hard
to understand how we can win 12 games and not make the playoffs even as the third seed. It’s just how the league is set up so better luck next season.
(JL) Well, next season it looks like you might be moving into the CIF?
(CM) Yes, there are talks about it. I’ve been hearing good things about the CIF and about our possibly of merging with them. I don’t know if it’s true, but I have no control over it, so I’m going to roll with the punches.
(JL) Right now, there are three CIF teams in Texas. One of those teams is the Texas Revolution that won the league
championship in 2017. Their quarterback last year was Chris Dixon. There have been a lot of comparisons between you and him, how do you feel about that?
(CM) I don’t really listen to it because I don’t compare myself with Chris Dixon or any other quarterback. He is great, but I don’t do comparisons. I base my talent on out-working my opponents.
(JL) What is your average day?
(CM) Well right now, I’m talking to you, before that I was in the gym. I just got through watching the film of the last game we played, and I’m going to watch all of our game film every day until the next season starts. I do my footwork on Saturday and throw the ball around with Jordan Jolly. He’s one of my receivers, and he’s here working with me. Because we always stay with
each other the whole time we’ve developed a great connection. I work with him throughout
the off season and I can’t say enough good things about him. We spend all our time working on our craft, picking each other’s brains, talking to the coach and trying to improve everything. I try to motivate my team and myself, so we can reach the next level. If I can do that the sky’s the limit for the Wichita Falls Nighthawks.
(JL) I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys did well in the CIF. Considering how many games you’ve won in the last couple years I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see you take the next step.
(CL) There’s only one way to find out. We’ll see when the season starts, but I think we’re ready to make a championship run.
(JL) Tell me about your game and the way you play, your style.
(CM) I try to model my game after Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham because they created this style of football. They got their reads in, and they delivered the ball on time and when they had to run they ran. They
weren’t runners because they wanted to run, they were running to pass. When everybody turned their back, they would take what they could. That’s the kind of player I want to be. I don’t want to be considered a running quarterback who can throw I want to be a throwing quarterback with running ability. Because I can run opponents expect me too, but I think I’ve shocked a lot of people by throwing so many touchdowns and completions.
(JL) What kind of offense did you run in college?
(CM) I started off at Florida A&M and my coach there, Billy Joe, gave me free range to change the play when I wanted. We played run and gun and have fun. We’d go 4 and 5 wide and play shotgun. He said to do whatever you see and take whatever they’ll give. It was the same thing we ran in high school. When I transferred to Stillman College my head coach Greg Thompson, He also gave me free range to do pretty much whatever I wanted because I was a film junkie. I studied the other team’s film. I would call my own plays on first and second down, and if we got stopped on the first two plays that’s when he would chime in. He would tell me, check it out, first and second down belong to you. If you get us into a good third down keep going with that. We played in a spread offense with a tight end, or 3 wide, with a running back and a tight end. It was almost
like fun and gun, same thing. Kind of like the old Houston Oilers offense.
(JL) The Run and shoot?
(CM) Yeah, that right there, the run and shoot. You can have a lot of fun in that offense. It gives the quarterback the ability to change it to what he sees, It’s like two or three plays at one time. You just take what they give. It’s kind of the same thing Billy does with us. We take what they give us, and if they don’t take it away we just keep taking it.
(JL) It’s almost like being a kid in a schoolyard drawing it up in the dirt.
(CM) Pretty much. Whatever they do they’re wrong. I’ve been running
offenses like that since I was in 11th grade. My coach said you like watching film, if I see you study; you do your thing. Coach said whatever they do they’re wrong. We’re going to teach everyone around you to adjust to whatever they do you do the opposite. If he’s going left, we’re going right. If he’s going right, we’re going left. If he goes deep, we’re going short. If he’s going short, we’re going deep. It’s a simple as that ever since I’ve started playing football
(JL)How does that translate to Wichita Falls?
(CM) It’s pretty much the same thing. There isn’t a defense that can hold us. We’ve had the number-one offense
in every league we’ve been in for the past four years I’ve been with Billy. We were number one in each league we’ve been in. When we won the PIFL we were number-one in that league for two years. Now where the number-one offense in this league for the past two years.
(JL) Why do you think it’s been difficult down the stretch?
(CM) Honestly, I think there’s a lot of wear and tear on our bodies. The defensive players have to chase and tackle, and 16 games is kind
of pushing it a bit plus the playoffs. I feel like it’s a wear-and-tear situation on our bodies, especially on our defense. 16 games is a full season plus play
offs, and that’s a lot of wear and tear on a body. This season we lost two cornerbacks. One of them was traded and then the other one of them went down with an injury. We brought in some new players, and they were trying to gel together but they couldn’t get it figured out in time. The back end of a defense, especially indoors, is all about communication. If those guys aren’t communicating well you see a lot of balls go over their heads, and then they start looking at each other and pointing fingers. No team needs that, especially if they’re trying to be successful late in the season. We kept trying to find a
way to fix it, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. It sucked because we should have made the playoffs at 12-4.
(JL) In both indoor and arena football, it seems like the rules change every year.
(CM) Playoffs change. Players change. Teams change. Leagues change, even the way games are called by referees seems to change from game to game. I don’t get that. I don’t get why there’s no consistency anywhere.
(JL) How difficult was the transition from college to indoor ball for you?
(CM) It was a big leap from playing outside and coming into a confined space. My first year I jumped
off the plane, and I came in last on the depth chart. In two weeks of camp, I went from the last to first. I was a rookie, and I ended up as the week one starter. If you’ve never been thrown into the fire like that it’ll take you for a loop, but I think I was pretty good in my first year.
(JL) What’s the main reason rookies fail at the QB position?
(CM) I’ve seen a lot of rookies unable to get comfortable with the spacing. Spacing is easy outside when you’ve got 53 1/3 yards from sideline to sideline but when you only have 22 or 23, it becomes a problem. It wasn’t too big of a deal for me, but I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with that.
(JL) What was the biggest
thing you had to overcome to make the transition?
(CM) The speed of the game. Measuring the time and getting back on the ball that was the hardest thing for me to adjust to. When you think about it, you have a high motion man running full speed when he hits the line of scrimmage, that’s mind boggling in itself. If the DB does one thing, we do the opposite so reading on the fly when a receiver is in high motion was kind of hard, but we have great receivers.
(JL) It’s hard to get the ball snapped at exactly the right moment?
(CM) It’s why I’m blessed and thankful for my center Antonio Foster because we might have a little botched snap every now and then,
but he never really snaps the ball off sides.
(JL) Will there be an IFL next year?
(CM) Shoot… If I have to answer truthfully, I don’t think there will be an IFL. Hopefully I’d like to see a combining of leagues to create a super league. I hope and pray for that. It would be good to move the rest of these teams over to the CIF. Many of the teams in the CIF used to be in the IFL. Omaha, the Wichita Force, the Revolution, Amarillo, these are all teams that used to be in the IFL. They need to work out a deal to put everyone back on the same page. Hopefully that’ll happen.
(JL) Why hasn’t that happened?
(CM) Probably the issue is money. Some teams don’t want to travel
out of their comfort zone. They’d rather stay local. I don’t know. I mean we’re in Texas, but why wouldn’t you want to go to Nebraska, or Oklahoma to let everyone know the Nighthawks will win wherever we go. Let them know the Nighthawks were there. That way, you build your brand and your fan base and get more revenue. If the fans know who you are they’ll come out and support you. I think teams that don’t want to travel hurt their brand, and it definitely hurts the game.
(JL) Do you think moving from the IFL to the CIF might confuse your fans?
(CM) Yes, I do, but as long as we don’t change our name, and we keep the
same colors and same logo they’ll know where the same team, so they probably won’t stray too far. Bu
t they will wonder for a while why we’re not playing the same teams we had been playing before. I mean
sometimes when we go out of town, their home crowd will support us. I think that’s because of the style of our play. We have fun the whole time, and it makes a difference. We went into Arizona and at the end of the game one of their season-ticket holders wanted a picture and an autograph and next year he’s going to be wondering why his team won’t be playing the Nighthawks. He’s going to be disappointed because he wanted to see us again, and it’s not going to happen. He’s thinking that’s not cool.
(JL)You played, and won a championship in the PIFL which was arena rules instead of what you’re playing now. Which do you like better?
(CM) Arena ball is like basketball with equipment on is what I tell people. Four down linemen, it’s a passers game, I loved it. If you played 16 games there you should have a hundred touchdowns. But honestly, I like the indoor game better. also, I think the fans enjoy indoor football better because we have a running game and it looks like the football they see in the NCAA and NFL.