Cullen Christian Focused on Football, Academics in WVU Transfer - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Cullen Christian Focused on Football, Academics in WVU Transfer

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MORGANTOWN - Wherever you can find Tony Gibson, you can find Cullen Christian.

That seems to be the theme as the Pittsburgh defensive back has made the decision to transfer to play out the rest of his career with West Virginia.

Christian initially committed to the University of Michigan out of Penn Hills (Pa.) High School, where then-Wolverines assistant Gibson, who saw something he liked in the young talent, recruited him.

He ultimately transferred from Michigan after Gibson and the rest of the staff was let go and wound up following him to his next destination: the University of Pittsburgh. It was a stone’s throw away from home and it allowed Christian to be close to his family and his support system, so even when Gibson left for Arizona State, he stayed behind.

After graduating with a degree in Administration of Justice this semester, Christian is again following Gibson, this time to Morgantown.

“I wanted to continue to play football and further my education with Sports Management, which is a major that Pitt doesn’t offer,” Christian said of his decision. “I felt like I didn’t fit Pitt’s system, but I feel like I have an opportunity to play at West Virginia. They play so many DBs. I know Coach Gibson very well and I know how he goes about coaching.”

Christian played as a true freshman at Michigan, tallying six tackles while appearing in 11 games. It was much like what he expected based on his conversations with Gibson that brought him to Ann Arbor in the first place. He had a chance to play if he put in the work, and he did.

“I got a fair shot to play,” Christian said. “The reason I didn’t start there was because I was a freshman, I wasn’t really too familiar with the playbook and a couple of seniors were there and they knew it better.”

The next season, Christian sat out at Pittsburgh due to NCAA transfer rules and by the time he was again eligible to step on the field, Gibson had moved on. In 2012, he played in 12 games, starting the first two, finishing with 16 tackles and one pass breakup.

An ankle injury last season kept him off the field for all but the first two games, though Christian says he would not have been starting with the Panthers anyway. Because he graduated, he will be eligible to play right away at WVU, but he holds out hope that his one season of eligibility can become two if the NCAA grants him a medical hardship waiver for the time he missed in 2013.

Christian came to Morgantown for the annual spring game earlier this month and one of the biggest impressions he came away with was how supportive the fans are.

“I’m extremely excited about it to get out there and have the opportunity to make some big plays and make the fans go crazy,” he said. “I know the fans are crazy there, so I’m ready to experience that real support again.”

He also knows that the Mountaineers have what is shaping up to be a talented and experienced defensive secondary. He sees himself fitting in at the spur position, where his 6-foot, 200-pound frame can do the most damage. He also knows that whatever role he has for WVU, it will be earned, not given to him.

“I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been. I’m just ready to play and I know it will be a fair chance to compete for a job. I don’t want anything handed to me,” Christian said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better as a player. I’m bigger, stronger and faster since Gibby last saw me.”

Christian recalls watching Darwin Cook, Karl Joseph and Daryl Worley in the past and he recognizes that playing defensive back in the Big 12 can be more of a challenge than it is in other leagues with how frequently offenses take to the air. He believes that fact just gives him more chances to make an impact on the game.

“It’s not scary at all. I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve never been around teams that throw the ball 40, 50 times a game. That’s more opportunity for me to make plays.”

With Pittsburgh in the rearview, Christian intends to arrive on WVU’s campus in time for the summer semester, which begins on May 19. He will be focused on football, sure, but this move is as much about his education as anything else.

“Education is very important, but going into college, to be honest, I wanted to get my degree and graduate, but really, football was my priority,” Christian admitted. “After I went to Pitt, with not playing and everything, I really just focused into the academics. I’ve been all about school.” 

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