Football team honors Mario’s memory

Irish recognize the loss of a teammate and good friend

Mario+McCullough%27s+jersey+is+carried+onto+the+field+before+the+varsity+football+team%27s+season+opener+at+Westfield.+

Grace Straley

Mario McCullough’s jersey is carried onto the field before the varsity football team’s season opener at Westfield.

Jameson Browne, News Editor

This football season, honoring a former teammate and friend is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. 

Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ‘88 explained the different things the team will be doing this year in memory of Mario McCullough, who passed away in March. Peebles said, “After we score a touchdown, we have been going for the two-point conversion in honor of the number he wore for us. We also have a banner by our locker room and the captains carry his jersey out before every game.”

On Sept. 11, Peebles said the team will participate in a Mass in honor of their lost teammate. He said, “We want to give the seniors some closure on this tragedy.”

Peebles also noted what McCullough brought to the team. “Mario was a great competitor,” he said, “We will really miss his competitive spirit and leadership.” 

In addition, the loss of their teammate has made his classmates step up in his place. Peebles said, “Mario’s loss has given other seniors the courage to step up and be leaders.”

On the field, Peebles knows how difficult it will be to try and replace him. “We can’t make up for what he did on the field,” Peebles said. “What we can do is teach our younger players to play with his tenacity and spirit.”

Mario was one of the hardest working people I have ever met.”

— Junior Jeff Utzinger

Junior Jeffrey Utzinger, an outside linebacker, explained how different it is playing without McCullough by his side. Utzinger said, “Mario was one of the hardest working people I have ever met. He inspired me to get better every day and I think that is true for our whole team.” 

While the team will certainly miss him as a player, they are focusing on who he was as a friend. “There are kids that were much closer with him than I was, but he was always someone that I could go to and ask for advice. We always knew that Mario would bring a hardworking attitude to practice every single day,” Utzinger said. 

As the season goes on, the team plans to play for Mario everyday. “We know what kind of intensity Mario would bring if he was out here with us,” Utzinger said, “It wouldn’t be right to bring anything less than that same intensity when we are on the field playing for him.” 

On the field, it is going to take a team effort to try and make up for the player Mario was. Utzinger said, “He was one of the best football players I have ever met. Even though he was a little undersized, he made up for it with his smarts and intensity.”

With a 2-0 record against two great opponents, the team is off to a hot start. “We wish he could be out there getting these wins with us, but now we just have to win for him,” Utzinger said. 

In order to honor his memory in the best way, Utzinger said their goal is to win the State championship. “Winning State is the goal every year, but this year it definitely feels more important. We have the talent and motivation to beat anyone,” Utzinger said, “Winning State in honor of Mario would be emotional for all of us. It would be bittersweet without him there. It already is bittersweet every game.”