Eric Kush becomes fourth California University football player taken in history of NFL Draft

April 27, 2013
Eric Kush

PITTSBURGH – Two weeks ago, Eric Kush got married. This weekend, he got a new job.

No, the Justice Studies major with an emphasis on Forensic Science didn’t land a position on CSI. Kush, a 6-4, 308-pound center on the California University football team, was selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I went on a visit to Kansas City and the meetings went really well,” said Kush, who is just the fourth Cal U. player to be selected in the NFL Draft, joining Tommie Campbell (2010, Tennessee), Judson Flint (1979, Jets) and Elmo Natali (1953, Cleveland).

“I’m very excited,” Kush added. “To be drafted is an honor. I’m going to play my butt off for Kansas City.”

Kush has a lot more butt to play off after spending five years at California.

A star football player and wrestler at Chartiers Valley, Kush arrived on campus at California weighing 245 pounds. He took a medical redshirt his first year to give him time to rehab a sore left shoulder and slowly watched as his weight climbed thanks to intensive workouts.

“I just kept working my butt off, just kept gaining weight and it snowballed into an opportunity to play in the NFL,” said Kush, who played in the East-West Shrine Game following his senior season.

And he grew into a position where he became a starter for the Vulcans.

He moved into the starting lineup in 2010 at left tackle before sliding over to center in 2011. It’s not a move many would have chosen to make, but for Kush, it made sense.

“My first opportunity to play at Cal was at left tackle and I thought I did well,” Kush said. “The next season, all of our seniors graduated and we had Rishawn Johnson transfer in from Ole Miss to play guard. I saw my best opportunity was at center and (to) line up next to Rishawn. I think that’s what got all of the attention and it just kept rolling.”

Johnson was invited to the NFL Draft Combine in 2012 and was signed as a rookie free agent by Seattle, spending all of last season with the Seahawks.

Having been drafted, Kush is now one up on his more ballyhooed former teammate. Unlike some of the previous players in recent history such as Johnson, quarterback Josh Portis and Campbell, who have transferred into Cal from NCAA Division I programs, Kush was completely home grown by the Vulcans.

Kush said he used California’s recent success with putting players in the NFL as a motivational tool.

“We have all of these guys who are straightening themselves out and getting a chance,” Kush said. “There’s more spotlight at Cal. I thought if they could do it, maybe I can do this. We had the scouts at our practices and I told myself, ‘I’m going to try to do this.’ ”

Kush wasn’t the lone former Vulcans star to find his way onto an NFL roster this weekend. Safety Rontez Miles went undrafted but signed with the New York Jets as a priority free agent.

Quarterback Peter Lalich and tight end Blake Williamson, a Chartiers-Houston graduate, also received interest from NFL teams heading into draft week but were not selected. Like Miles, they are free to sign as undrafted rookies with any NFL team.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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