CHEYENNE – Like any good big brother, Talon Bullock helped his younger brother, Tanner, learn how to play football.
As Tanner Bullock progressed in the sport, Talon – who is six years older than Tanner – taught him tips and tricks that gave him an edge on his peers.
Those pointers weren’t even the biggest contributions the former second team all-state selection made to Tanner’s development as a football player.
“He convinced my mom to let me play tackle football in third grade,” said Tanner, who is a senior at Cheyenne Central. “She wasn’t sure about it, but (Talon) told her she needed to let me play. He started playing tackle football in sixth grade, and always felt like he was playing catch-up.
“He didn’t want me to go through that. That really helped me out.”
Bullock is second on the No. 5-ranked Indians (4-3) in defensive points per game entering today’s 7 p.m. kickoff against third-ranked Casper Natrona County (5-2).
Bullock ranks seventh in Class 4A at 14.3 defensive points per game. He has 52 tackles (15 solo and six for loss), six quarterback sacks and two pass breakups.
Bullock’s six sacks are the most in 4A.
“He is healthy, and that’s the biggest thing,” second-year Central coach Mike Apodaca said. “Last year, he never was healthy. He has made tremendous strides.
“He is one of our captains, and has embraced taking his commitment and dedication to the next level. We kind of always saw the physical side of his talent, but those other two pieces have really come out of him, and that’s made a huge difference.”
Bullock missed the first two games of his junior campaign after having surgery to repair a bucket handle tear in the meniscus in one of his knees. He tore the same meniscus during the first half of the second game of his return. Bullock finished that game, and played two more before having to have surgery again.
“I tried to put off surgery until after the season, but I just couldn’t play anymore,” he said. “That wasn’t fun. I wanted to play with my brothers, be out there on the field and do what I could do. I just couldn’t.
“It wasn’t in the cards for me, and it wasn’t God’s plan for me.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder showed potential to be a disruptive force during those four games, recording 16 tackles (six solo), a sack and an interception.
“I don’t want to say I would have played as well as I am now if I had been able to play all of last year, because I don’t know for sure, but I think I could have,” he said. “I know I would be even better this year if I had gotten to play more last year.
“I can’t change it, though, so there’s no use dwelling on it.”
Bullock got back into the weight room as soon as he could after surgery. He was determined to not only regain the strength he had in his leg muscles before he suffered the injury, but get even stronger. He knows there’s no way to prevent a meniscus injury, but he figured added muscle wouldn’t hurt.
Bullock also knows he can’t take full credit for his success this season. Junior Joey Kostelecky plays defensive end opposite him, and has been just as good. Kostelecky – a 5-11, 180-pounder – is tied for 11th in 4A in defensive points per game (12.1).
“If (Kostelecky) doesn’t play well on the weak side, I can’t play well on the strong side,” Bullock said. “If I don’t play well on the strong side, he can’t play well on the weak side. We can’t do much without each other.”
Apodaca appreciates both players because of their willingness to change positions. Bullock was a tight end and defensive end last season, but is a backup at both offensive tackle positions this fall. Kostelecky was a tight end, fullback and linebacker in 2018, but is starting at offensive guard in addition to playing defensive end.
“They didn’t hesitate when I asked them to move,” Apodaca said. “Now, they’re both hardly ever off the field. They’re both hardworking, coachable kids, and a big reason why we’re having success.”