Max Bullough, Michigan State's former two-time captain, hopes to be the player that makes the 53-man roster this fall. The undrafted rookie comes from a football family, the third generation playing for the Spartans. His strengths include his football intelligence and his tough, physical style of play.
"I think Max is a guy that has come in here and he came from a really good college program," head coach Bill O'Brien said on Saturday. "He came from a program run by Mark Dantonio, who I have a ton of respect for. Coming from the Big Ten, Mark has built that program into a Big Ten champion. We knew he was well-coached. He's come in here and worked very hard with the other guys. He seems to be communicating well and doing the things that we're asking him to do in the first two days here."
Bullough, a three-year starter at middle linebacker for MSU, was named first-team All-Big Ten by coaches in 2012 and 2013. The Traverse City, Michigan native led the Spartans with 111 tackles in 2012 and also had 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and four passes defensed.
"I'll definitely say that learning the game of football is something that I enjoy," Bullough said Saturday. "I think that's something that's good for me because I enjoy the game. I enjoy the chess match of it, the X's and O's of it. When you enjoy something, you do it and you look farther into it and that's as simple as it is with me."
In 2013, he started all 13 games but was suspended for the Rose Bowl against Stanford for an undisclosed reason. Bullough participated in Michigan State's Pro Day and the NFL Combine. He and was projected to be a fifth-round or later prospect. Not being drafted doesn't deter him from competing next to players selected ahead of him.
"I think anytime you are in this situation you focus on your positives as a player, you understand your strengths, and then you attack and try to overcome any weaknesses or try to make those strengths for yourself," Bullough said. "I'm in this position now because of whatever I did in the past, or what I didn't do in the past whether it be good or bad, but at the end of the day we are all here doing the same thing, we are in the same meeting rooms, and we are trying to become Houston Texans come fall."
The Texans didn't draft an inside linebacker after losing two to free agency this offseason, Darryl Sharpton and Joe Mays. While the possibility of moving Brooks Reed to inside linebacker still exists, O'Brien is working to create competition at every position on the roster. Bullough will be learning under linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, a 14-year NFL veteran who started 140 games and won three Super Bowl rings.
"I think it's always great when you can learn from a coach who obviously has the experience and the excitement and shares that emotion with you," Bullough said. "I think that is something the next player is going to have innately. He's been, along with all of the coaching staff, they have all been very helpful and trying to teach us in a way we understand, a way that we can learn and it's different for each player and I've had a positive experience with Coach Vrabel thus far."