The start of the NFL season is around the corner, which means fantasy football will soon kick off as well. And for former NFL linebacker Keith Bulluck it means he gets the best of both worlds.
The former Tennessee Titans great, who also spent a final season with the New York Giants, has joined an eclectic bunch in a fantasy football league that plays for charity. Bulluck, a native of New York who went on to Syracuse before becoming a three-time All-Pro as a member of the Titans, still keeps a home in Edgewater, New Jersey – with his primary residence being in Nashville, Tennessee.
He often comes back to New York, and on a recent late-August trip to the area, he took part in the FNTSY Cup, a celebrity fantasy football league that’s run by the FNTSY Sports Network – a network that dubs itself the world’s first and only channel dedicated to fantasy sports.
The event hosted a gaggle of celebrities and entertainers from all walks of life – including former and current professional athletes, a high-stakes fantasy sports player, reality television stars, podcast hosts, fantasy sports analysts, a New York Assemblyman, a professional wrestler, and a former pornographic actress. Bulluck noted that such an eclectic group certainly made for an entertaining draft, which was held at Rock & Reilly’s in New York City and broadcasted on Sirius XM. Nando Di Fino, the Director of Programming for FNTSY Sports Network, is the brains behind the league and noted that the league’s winner would receive $2,000 to donate to their charity of choice, with $500 going to the runner-up’s charity of choice.
The former Pro Bowl linebacker discussed with Metro how he got involved, his time with the Giants, and what he’s up to now. But before the interview started, he inquired about wideout Victor Cruz’s status and wanted to let everyone know that he predicted the receiver’s stardom prior to anyone else – before a debilitating knee injury forced the receiver to miss all action since that fateful night in Philadelphia on Oct. 12, 2014.
“The year I was there, he was a rookie. I remember Vic was killing them at practice, and I was like, ‘who was this Dominican killing them?’ And I found out he wasn’t, so it’s like an inside joke now,” Bulluck said. “But then he got redshirted [due to a hamstring injury, Cruz was placed on injured reserve after appearing in only three games]. His second year, though, I remember doing TV work, and I told everyone to watch out for this kid.”
Bulluck then took time to further discuss his whereabouts, his stint with the Giants, and football in general – both real and fantasy.
Q: Most people know you for your football accomplishments, but we’ve also heard that you were also a very good basketball player as a prep. So what made you permanently hang up the sneakers and wear cleats?
A: “Yeah, I was good [Bulluck was All-County as a junior at New York’s Clarkstown High School North, where he has his jersey retired and is in the school’s Hall of Fame]. I always said that if I was few inches taller, I’d have put the helmet and cleats up and played basketball.”
Q: Seems like you made the right career choice. You had a stellar NFL career. But playing middle linebacker is a grueling task, and you did it for 11 years, including your final season with the Giants. How are you today? And what was it like being a member of Big Blue?
A: “I’m starting to hit my groove after six years away from the game. My time with the Giants was great. They gave me an opportunity to decompress [following his lone season there]. I was hurting for a little bit during that season, but I was able to walk away – and on my choice. But playing the game for as long as I did and the position I played was great. It’s kind of like a drug, playing at a high level. But then they want you to play a [lesser] role – and that’s an ego shot. But you realize why they’re asking you to play a role, because your body tells you.”
Q: Any lingering affects? Any hesitation for kids to play the game?
A: “I’m blessed. I’m good. I have all girls, but I wouldn’t have any problems if I did have boys [and they wanted to play football]. I have friends who have boys, but I don’t think there’s a need for a kid to play tackle until the fifth or sixth grade ... It comes down to coaching at that age and whether they’re being taught the correct way. Some don’t [teach it well], and others do. But if boys want to play at younger ages, there’s not a lot of worry about concussion.”
Q: Switching from real football to fantasy football, your involvement in this celebrity league is intriguing. How did you get involved?
A: “Nando Di Fino was the brains behind it, and I just joined. It’s a 12-team fantasy league. I was just up there for the draft [couple weeks ago]. It’s definitely unique. It was fun being a part of it. And we had it at Rock & Reilly’s in front of a live audience and was also broadcasted on Sirius XM.”
Q: Being a former pro football player, you must’ve gone into the draft very confident since you know the ins-and-outs of the game.
A: “I get a laugh when someone says that to me. People think that because I played, I should have the inside jump. But I don’t. The league even gave me 75-1 odds to win, second-to-last. I’m even behind a pro wrestler. People think I should be an expert and assume I’d have the upper hand. But little do they know, I don’t have it like that.”
Q: You’re not using your contacts to hit up players and get some insider trading done?
A: “Oh, no. I definitely didn’t hit them up. I’m not going to bother guys like that.”
Q: Who’s on your roster that you think is going to have a big year?
A: “My top pick was David Johnson [running back for the Arizona Cardinals]. He was there at No. 7. But had I gotten the first-overall pick, it definitely would’ve been a choice between AB [Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown], Julio [Jones, wideout for the Atlanta Falcons], or [Todd] Gurley [running back for the Los Angeles Rams]. Hopefully he [Johnson] comes back hungry because he has a hungry veteran guy behind him in Chris Johnson.”
Q: What’s that like, having guys on your own team always gunning for your starting spot?
A: “It’s [pressure] always there in a sense because you’re the No. 1 spot and guys want it. It really depends on the individual if they accept it. You need to always know that you belong. The mental aspect makes you try and be the best every week – but the pressure comes from what you create. Fans, coaches don’t put pressure on you. They have expectations of you, but if you choose to make that pressure, then that’s what it is. It’s definitely mental from within.”
Q: What are you doing these days to stay competitive and applying the mental that made you such a good football player?
A: “I do some radio work. Did some Sirius XMNFL stuff. I received my Masters at George Washington University. I’m involved, along with my wife, in real estate ventures in San Francisco and New York. We’re also involved in renovations. And I also get involved with investing in local businesses.”
Q: Do you actually play fantasy football on the side, or is the celebrity league the only time you play?
A: “I’ve also been playing with buddies of mine, regular 9-5 guys. It gets them closer to the action, and we get to play together and talk smack. It’s fun.”