The Concordia Stingers got what they were after. Strongside linebacker Chris O’Kill McMullen from the provincial college champion Vanier Cheetahs will join the Stingers next season. O’Kill McMullen is excited to be joining a young team that he feels is on the rise.
“I feel the program has great potential to be a strong team in this province,” he said. “It was a young team the last couple of years, but they’re maturing now. I think we can reach new heights and make our mark on this conference.”
The team was looking for a strongside linebacker. Fortunately, they didn’t have to look too far to find their man, as the Vanier Cheetahs play their home games at Concordia.
Defensive co-ordinator Phil Roberts first noticed O’Kill McMullen in a friendly scrimmage between the Cheetahs and the Stingers. After further scouting by Roberts, the Stingers decided to reel him in.
“We feel he is the best strongside linebacker coming out of Quebec this year,” said head coach Gerry McGrath.
So, what does O’Kill McMullen think of his new coach?
“He seems like the guy to me, that if you work hard, he’ll always back you up,” he said. “Something I respect about him is he feels players should be passionate and play inspired.”
Expectations are high for O’Kill McMullen in terms of what he can contribute to the team. He will be 21-years-old by the time the season starts, whereas most first-year players are only 18 or 19.
“My coaches expect me to set the example for the younger guys,” he said. “I need to help them out and give them that extra push if they need it.”
“Nothing’s guaranteed for me though in terms of a starting role. I’ll have to come in, practice hard and earn it. Even if I do get to start, I have to keep working hard; the best way to keep it is to work harder than everyone else.”
The team does have a need in this position. The role of a strongside linebacker is a big responsibility. The position requires stopping the run, as well as coverage skills. That means one must have a great combination of strength and speed to play the position.
O’Kill McMullen played for one year in St. Lazare when he was 14-years-old. He then moved to LaSalle, where he played for three seasons before being recruited by Vanier.
After his first season, O’Kill McMullen decided to take a year off from football. During his football sabbatical, he won a provincial championship in wrestling.
When he decided he missed football too much, he returned to the sport the following year. He enjoyed a great season individually as well as with the team.
“I was lucky to be given another opportunity to play after taking a year off,” he said. “I’m happy I got a chance, then I was fortunate enough to have a great season which led to Concordia recruiting me.”
O’Kill McMullen was an integral part of the Cheetahs’ championship season last year. He compiled 52 tackles, 38 of those were solo tackles, despite not starting in the first five games of the season. He added two sacks and an interception. He is 6-3 and weighs in at 220 pounds.
“I kind of surprised myself with my great season last year,” he said. “I just went out there and gave it everything I had. Winning the championship was just surreal. It was just amazing to be a part of it.”
O’Kill McMullen recently signed his commitment papers to the school. He will study psychology at Concordia and should fill a much needed role on the football team.