Navy offensive line coach Chris Culton had spent more than half his life weighing more than 300 pounds. But a routine physical examination and stern words from his doctor convinced him that he needed to change his ways.
“She read me the riot act,” Culton said. “I got threatened with diabetes and that scared me.”
Eight months and 60 pounds later, Culton knocks in at 245. Last fall he was heavier than all the players he coached. This year, he’s lighter than them all.
“I was happy,” senior tackle Andrew Barker said. “He was real intimidating when he was that big. He seems nicer now that he’s smaller.”
Culton, 35, had known nothing but being big. He reached 300 pounds at age 17. During spring practice of his freshman year at Georgia Southern, he suffered a neck injury that ended his playing career. Culton remained with the program as a student assistant coach through his graduation, starting a lifestyle that challenges the physical condition of many coaches — long hours, lots of travel, little time to exercise, and meals on the run.
Culton wasn’t gaining weight. But holding steady at just over 300 pounds wasn’t healthy. His doctor’s assessment was sobering news, especially considering his wife, Amanda, and their four young children.
“I want to be around for them,” Culton said. “My doctor said I was living a life of excess for too long. I had to get my stuff in gear.”
Culton’s new mantra is “portion control.” He actually eats meals more often and regularly. But they don’t resemble his previous portions. Instead of a foot-long sandwich from Subway, Culton will get a six-incher, cut it in half, and save some for later. Culton also makes sure to set aside 30 minutes a day for some sort of cardio workout.
“I feel better. I’ve got energy. I can play with the kids,” Culton said. “Walking down steps in the morning, that used to kill me.”
Culton is serving as an inspiration for his players, though most of them have the opposite goal when it comes to their weight, especially this time of year during two-a-day practices in the August heat.
“He’s doing what I hope to do when I’m a senior, after the football season’s over,” junior tackle Graham Vickers (6-1, 280) said.
“A lot of these guys aren’t naturally 260 pounds, 270 pounds,” Culton added. “For me to be healthy, I have to concentrate on what I’m eating. For them to be at the weight they need to be, it’s the same thing. They have to have that same dedication to keep their weight up.”
Paulson in rotation
Converted defensive lineman Ryan Paulson has worked his way into the rotation at offensive tackle. The 6-4, 266-pound senior was shifted to the offensive line with two weeks left in spring practice and has been impressive at his new spot.
“The first thing I saw in Paulson is that he’s extremely athletic, similar to Ryan Basford last year. He has a lot of natural abilities,” Culton said. “Athletically he’s superior to all the other tackles. The question is mentally. He’s got to take the same mental reps when he’s not in there.”
Paulson hasn’t played much from scrimmage in his career, but has been a valuable special teamer, playing 22 of 25 games. He will vie for time with Barker (6-4, 275), who started six games at left tackle last year, and Vickers, who took over for Barker late last year, starting the final three games. Barker has shifted to the right side this year.
“They’ve got some experience, but they’ve got to work,” head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They’ve got the physical tools. They’ve got to get the mental part.”
Reynolds a quick study at QB
According to Niumatalolo, true freshman Keenan Reynolds has “closed ground,” on sophomore John Hendrick in the battle for the backup quarterback job behind junior Tre Miller. Reynolds had a stellar high school career as a dual-threat quarterback at Goodpasture Christian in Nashville, Tenn., but was largely ignored by recruiters because of a lack of size at 5-9, 170.
“His grasp of the offense [has come] in such a short time span,” Niumatalolo said. “He’s got a high football IQ.”
Getting their kicks
After missing four extra-points and five field goals last year and losing three games where kicks could have reversed the outcome, Navy has made kicking a priority in camp this year. Junior Stephen Picchini and sophomore Colin Amerau (Mount Vernon) are listed 1-2 on the depth chart, but Niumatalolo has said the competition is wide open.
“Today was one of our better days,” Niumatalolo said. “We made all of our kicks. Game situation, we had one miss, but it was a [bad] hold. He got a second chance, so he made the one after that.”
Among those making field goals at the end of practice were freshmen Nick Sloan, Austin Grebe, and David Reisner. Niumatalolo declined to say if any of the kickers in particular had stood out.
Scrimmage Saturday, Ravens Sunday
Navy’s first scrimmage of the preseason will be Saturday at noon, and will be open to the public, free of charge. There is a $5 fee to park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The stadium also will host a Baltimore Ravens practice session on Sunday from 5 to 7:45. Admission is free with a $10 charge to park.