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No matter what anyone else thought of him, Wes Bullock Jr. and his family were convinced of his talent for football.
Bullock has almost always been the smallest player on the field, from his first days in Little League through his senior season at Plant High. As expected, his diminutive stature has drawn a chorus of doubt that has followed him since he first slipped on shoulder pads.
Far from discouraging him, Bullock said, he has been inspired to silence the skepticism.
“You can’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do,” said Bullock, now generously listed at 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds. “All my life people told me I wouldn’t do big things.”
Bullock celebrated another triumph of resilience Wednesday, inking with Old Dominion University at the Panthers’ national signing day ceremony.
He was one of nearly 20 Plant athletes to sign with colleges, by far the most of any school in the bay area. Football coach Robert Weiner, who essentially served as the master of ceremonies, said the school hadn’t had so many college-bound athletes in at least a decade.
Weiner’s football team, which suffered its earliest playoff exit since 2005, had 10 players at the ceremony.
That included safety Paris Bostick (Georgia), linebacker Mitchell Wright (USF) and defensive back Reeves Rogers (Furman), who was the only one among the group to announce his college choice at the event.
But Weiner saved probably his highest compliment for Bullock, who has been on varsity since the end of his freshman year.
“I don’t think I’ve ever coached a better high school football player,” Weiner said.
Bullock was certainly one of the most versatile players to ever pass through Plant. He finished his career with 3,983 all-purpose yards and 32 touchdowns, including two on kick returns this fall. In a testament to his sure-handedness and toughness, Bullock lost only two fumbles in three years.
His mother, Cherylynn Bullock, said she never worried about her son in a game meant mostly for large men with bad attitudes.
“We always heard, ‘That boy is too short,’” she said. “But I knew he could play.”
That’s because the athletic gifts that allowed him to excel in high school were apparent from the time he was a toddler. He started throwing a football at 2, joined a flag football league at 5 and moved on to playing tackle games with the Plant City Colts at 8.
His mother recalled him once scoring two touchdowns in a flag football game with a broken ankle. No one realized the then-6-year-old Wesley had sustained the injury until after the game, when he had difficulty pulling off his shoes because of the grotesquely swollen ankle.
That drive stayed with him through high school, keeping him confident despite the lack of interest shown by most major-college programs.
Bullock had offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, Florida Atlantic, Penn State and Toledo. But Bullock said he stuck with Old Dominion, an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision program in Norfolk, Va., because they remained committed to him even as he struggled to meet NCAA academic qualifications.
“I decided to stick with them like they stuck with me,” he said. “And they’ve got a lot of kids just like me. Some of them have been doubted and I know they’re hungry to prove everyone wrong, too.”