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Super Bowl champion Deland McCullough returns to Indiana to coach running backs

Deland McCullough always wanted to return to coaching college football. He said going to the NFL was to learn to become a better coach and earn respect.

Stevie Scott during Indiana's win at Maryland in 2019. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

So after seeing former Indiana running backs coach Mike Hart’s departure from Bloomington, McCullough sent a text to Tom Allen. McCullough wanted to return to Indiana, where he coached from 2011 to 2016.

"When I read it, I was like 'Seriously?'” Allen said. “But immediately, it was obvious to me he was everything we wanted in this position and more."

McCullough said he had a number of other offers to become a running backs coach in college, but a main reason he chose Indiana was the opportunity to be an associate head coach, too. McCullough said he has tracked Indiana from afar, and the opportunity to return to Bloomington was an opportunity he jumped at.

"Everything just fit for me,” McCullough said. “Coach Allen, the program, the direction it's headed in."

McCullough will also have the opportunity to coach against his son Dasan McCullough, who is a four-star recruit committed to Ohio State. And any speculation that Dasan would follow his father to Indiana was quickly put to rest.

"I'm beyond happy for my dad and this opportunity," Dasan told social media content creator Hayes Fawcett. "Going to feel good beating him for three or four years. Imma Buckeye."

For the past three seasons, McCullough has been the running backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. In his introductory press conference on Tuesday via Zoom, McCullough had his Super Bowl trophy and Emmy Award positioned over his shoulders. 

This is the kind of pedigree that is now attracted to Indiana football. McCullough said the Super Bowl trophy, along with running backs he has coached in the NFL such as LeSean McCoy and Le’veon Bell, will help back him up as a coach. 

"I'm going to have those guys on speed dial and they are going to be willing to sell it,” McCullough said.

McCullough also had the backing of Super Bowl champion head coach Andy Reid when discussing his future endeavors. McCullough said Reid was impressed by the commitment Allen has shown to the university and that it is starting to pay dividends. In their conversation, McCullough said Reid talked about Allen as if he knew him personally.

“Do you know him?” McCullough said. 

“No, but I can see his energy," Reid said.

When Indiana hired Charlton Warren from Georgia to replace Kane Wommack as defensive coordinator, Allen talked about Warren having "SEC eyes." With McCullough, Allen took the next step. 

“We have NFL eyes with Deland,” Allen said. “...He's been with the best in the world."

In his previous tenure with Indiana, McCullough sent Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard, Devine Redding and Stephen Houston to the NFL.

Allen was visibly excited about the addition of McCullough in his press conference on Tuesday, but knows there is still a lot to do in order for Indiana to compete moving forward. Allen said a challenge for the 2021 season will be recreating the culture and fire within the players that led to a successful 2020 season.

“Do I expect us to compete to go win a Big Ten championship? Absolutely,” Allen said. “But to get there, it's gonna be a lot of hard work."

After a loss to Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl, Allen is hungry to get back on the field, and knows the addition of McCullough will help the Hoosiers. McCullough said he is looking to make an impact beyond just the running back room. 

Running back Stevie Scott entered his name into the 2021 NFL Draft, which leaves Sampson James and Tim Baldwin Jr. as candidates for the largest share of carries in 2021.

"We've got to work now,” Allen said. “We ain't done anything. We haven't won the Big Ten East, we haven't won the Big Ten ... we haven't won a bowl game. There's a lot of things we haven't done. To me, there's a lot of fire and passion within me to keep building this thing."

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