HS Football 2021: Evergreen Plainsmen

Gary McCulley transformed himself into a true linebacker with a new diet and a commitment to the weight room, and now he hopes to lead Evergreen to the postseason

Gary McCulley changed his life around to become a better football player and better leader at Evergreen High School

It was his sophomore year when Gary McCulley got a taste of the linebacker position, playing football for the Evergreen Plainsmen.

He loved everything about the position, everything except the position he had put himself in as an athlete.

Simply put, he wasn’t very athletic. And that was on him.

“I knew I didn’t fit in. I knew I didn’t look good out there. I didn’t play good,” McCulley said. “But I liked playing there. I figured I needed to make a change so I could play this position better.”

Gary McCulley loved playing linebacker from the beginning, but he knew he had to become a better athlete to excel at it for the Evergreen Plainsmen. Photo by Paul Valencia
Gary McCulley loved playing linebacker from the beginning, but he knew he had to become a better athlete to excel at it for the Evergreen Plainsmen. Photo by Paul Valencia

It was a life-changing decision. McCulley lost 50 pounds.

“He was a little ‘roly poly’ and now he’s ripped,” said Evergreen coach Christian Swain. 

“It was really just a lot of determination. I was determined to change my lifestyle for the better,” McCulley said. “I just lived in the gym.”

He said he ate, slept, and breathed working out. 

“Then I had a pretty good junior season for myself,” he said.

Pretty good? Swain said yes, he might be a bit biased because McCulley is one of his players, but Swain said McCulley was as good as any linebacker he saw in that spring campaign.

Now, McCulley is one of the senior leaders. Swain can point to McCully and tell the younger players, this is how to do it.

“I feel really honored about that,” McCulley said. “That’s what I strive to be, to be the guy who people can look up to. I know when I was a freshman, I had those guys. ‘I want to be like that.’ I just want to continue to strive, to show who I am and who I want to be.”

Well, just who is he then?

“I’m Gary McCulley,” he answered. “I’m who I want to be, but I can always be better.”

Evergreen football standout Gary McCulley says he likes who he has become but there is always room for improvement. Photo by Paul Valencia
Evergreen football standout Gary McCulley says he likes who he has become but there is always room for improvement. Photo by Paul Valencia

Beyond his workouts, he is also working to better himself at … well, at work. McCulley has been known to come to offseason drills all dirty from bucking hay at his job at a La Center farm.

“Toughness. Consistency. Work ethic,” Swain described McCulley.

It’s been quite a ride for McCulley, his career with the Plainsmen.

“When I was a freshman at Evergreen football, I really didn’t know what it meant,” McCulley said. “I was new to the environment, I was new to being a high schooler. Now a senior, Evergreen football is just a lifestyle. You gotta want to eat, breathe, and live football. You’ve got to want to be here in order to be on the field.”

He loves how one coach described it.

“You have to be a football player. You can’t play football,” he said.

Gary McCulley was a “roly poly” when he was younger, but he went to work and now is ripped, playing linebacker for the Evergreen Plainsmen. Photo by Paul Valencia
Gary McCulley was a “roly poly” when he was younger, but he went to work and now is ripped, playing linebacker for the Evergreen Plainsmen. Photo by Paul Valencia

With that attitude, McCulley hopes to lead Evergreen football to bigger and better things.

“My first expectation is I want to win league,” McCulley said. “That’s something that is achievable when everyone does what we’re supposed to do. I’d like to make a deep playoff run.”

He also wants to continue to build on the progress the football team has made with its culture. That goes beyond wins and losses, he said. Through the ups and downs of a season, Evergreen football players can always maintain a positive attitude.

“You can make the best of any situation as long as you try,” McCulley said.

He would know.

Gary McCulley transformed himself into a true linebacker with a new diet and a commitment to the weight room, and now he hopes to lead Evergreen to the postseason
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