Miamian seeks second straight ring as coach of Kansas City Chiefs
By Jesús Jiménez, assistant director of digital content
Everyone’s Miami Experience is different in its own way. For Deland McCullough ’96, it was certainly unique. While many people find their calling at college, McCullough found so much more.
From finding himself atop the record books to finding his biological father, McCullough’s Miami Experience was like no other.
Now the running backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, McCullough has an opportunity to win a second consecutive Super Bowl.
The Chiefs (16-2) take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-5) in Super Bowl LV. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. EST.
Get prepared for the big game with these five facts about Deland McCullough and his time at Miami.
Deland McCullough set records – and history – as Miami’s running back
With 949 rushes for 4,368 yards, McCullough graduated as the career rushing leader for both Miami and the Mid-American Conference.
He was the first Miamian to earn MAC Freshman of the Year honors.
The others? Ben Roethlisberger in 2001 and Brett Gabbert in 2019.
While both rushing records have been broken by Travis Prentice ’00 (1,138 rushes for 5,596 yards), Deland sits in the top 10 of most Miami rushing records and was inducted into Miami’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
Other accolades include Third-Team Associated Press All-American in 1995, First-Team All-MAC selection in 1992 and 1995, Second-Team All-MAC in 1994 and being a finalist for the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.
“What makes Miami so special is the high standards – on the playing field, in the classroom and in society as a whole,” McCullough said in a 2019 interview with Miami. “Miami challenges you to become a better person by surrounding you with like-minded, goal-oriented people.”
His son Deland II is currently a RedHawk
Deland McCullough II is currently on Miami’s football team as a redshirt freshman. He was on the team during the RedHawks 2019 MAC Championship season and appeared in one game.
Deland II spoke to the Miami Student about being on the field when his father won Super Bowl LIV.
“Seeing it in real life — smack dab right on the field — people holding the trophies, people holding up the newspapers, it’s just, like, ‘Wow, this is real.’” McCullough II said. “You’ve got dudes laying down in the confetti, crying. It was just a big moment, especially with the way that we [the Chiefs] won the game.”
McCullough had a brief professional career that ended with an injury
Following a hall-of-fame career at Miami, McCullough was surprised not to hear his name during the 1996 NFL draft. Following a few workouts, he ended up signing with the Cincinnati Bengals. McCullough was the leading rusher in the NFL preseason before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Cincinnati’s final exhibition game.
“I’m happy I got to show I can play on this level. I think the four preseason games showed that,” he said at the time.
McCullough also spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and played professionally with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and the Chicago Enforcers of the original XFL, before retiring in 2001.
McCullough also spent time as a coach at Miami
McCullough was the head football coach and administrator at Harmony Community High School in Cincinnati before returning to the college ranks as an intern at Miami.
He went on to work at Indiana University and USC before being hired by the Chiefs in 2018.
“Deland has a track record of success teaching young running backs and he’s also played in this league,” Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid said at the time. “I enjoyed the time I spent getting to know him and believe he will be a very good addition to our coaching staff.”
McCullough was recruited to Miami by his father — but neither of them had a clue
The adopted son of Adelle Comer, McCullough was recruited by then Miami University running backs Coach Sherman Smith, a former Miami Football quarterback. As a redshirt freshman, McCullough developed a close relationship with Smith that extended beyond the field.
In 2017, McCullough met his biological mother, Carol Briggs, and asked who his biological father was. It was Sherman Smith.
“If you would have told me to pick who my father was, there’s no way I would have picked him because I might have thought I wasn’t worthy for him to be my father,” McCullough says. “I felt like my blessings came full circle because I’d always wanted to be somebody like him.”
Smith, who always tried to have a father-son relationship with his players, had no idea that he was McCullough’s father.
“I look at it, and I just say it’s a God thing,” Smith says. “It’s grace. It’s undeserved. And that’s what’s made it great for Deland and for all of us, how everyone has embraced this and is excited about our new family.”