Tim Bulman is the kind of player the Texans want, the Texans need, on their team. All go, no quit. This guy has one gear - flat out balls-to-the-wall. In person, the intensity just radiates off him. He has a guileless smile that betrays his love for the game. If you knew him at any other point in his career, you might not recognize him now. He's a lean 276 lbs and in the best shape of his life.
He's fascinating to talk to. The road that brought him to Reliant is an interesting one, filled with the best kind of football, but to only read the details of his life misses what makes him a great player. The three facets that best define his game are aggression, control and playmaking ability. His coaches and the media compliment him on his high motor, but it's more than that. He has the aggressiveness of an angry wolverine. He believes that the best defensive linemen pursue a play. He makes tackles in the backfield and takes passes away from receivers. No matter the down or distance, Tim Bulman is striving to make a play on the ball.
Not everything has gone his way. A highly rated defensive tackle at Boston College, he ended up going undrafted and then bounced around practice squads. Yet this path hasn't deterred or dissuaded Tim Bulman from maintaining confidence that he is an NFL player. With a great deal of humility, Bulman explained that he only worried about things he could control. He doesn't choose the roster. He doesn't write the contracts. He worries about his motor - going all out every play. He worries about his conditioning - starting his training early for the offseason on January 23. He worries about making this year a career year. We call this character.
Tim Bulman told me that his college defensive line coach, Keith Willis, instilled an ideal in him that he works for every play. Coach Willis told him that any player could make any play. Tim Bulman realized that he could deflect a pass, sack a quarterback or block a punt. He's spent his whole career doing just that. He's deflected a pass intended for Ernest Wilford, covered punts and even long snaps. Simply put, Tim Bulman is a playmaker.
The Road There
Tim Bulman's sports career started on the basketball court. He still has his Larry Bird jersey, which he wears around the Texans locker room. He played basketball until his freshman year of high school. He followed the trail his older brother Andrew blazed onto the gridiron. A knee injury his freshman year made him realize two things: That his future wasn't in basketball and that he was really good with the pigskin. From that moment, he was filled with the determination to excel and succeed. He was clean cut all through high school. While other guys partied, he trained. He knew that his God-given talent was an opportunity to go places and he took it with a vengeance.
He got a scholarship and followed a grand New England tradition of becoming a "double-eagle", someone who attends Boston College High School and Boston College. He made plays as a freshman and sophomore as he grew into his body and his role as a defensive tackle. His junior season, Bulman really began to establish himself with 33% of his tackles behind the line of scrimmage. His senior season opened with promise. He was part of a monstrous defensive line next to Mathias Kiwanuka.
But the draft was unkind to Tim Bulman. Originally seen as a first day prospect, he continued to fall down draft boards because of the dreaded label of "undersized," despite putting up a combine best 35 reps and doing exceptionally well in other drills. His teammates were surprised that he went undrafted; they knew he was a big part of the maroon and gold monster. Tim Bulman uses the pain of that day to fuel his motor.
Arizona was his first stop in the NFL. He found he had to fill big shoes. When he got there he was issued Kyle Vanden Bosh's number. Everyone on the Cardinals defense knew that Vanden Bosh would break out in 2005 because of how hard he worked. Bertrand Berry and Reggie Wells told him he had to live up to that work ethic wearing that jersey. Texans' fans are going to see just how hard of a worker Tim Bulman is this year.
On December 11, 2005, The Cardinals took the field against the Washington Redskins. His parents were in the stands cheering. Because of injuries, the Cardinals only had 3 active defensive tackles for the game. Suddenly, Darnell Dockett went down with an injury and Bulman was sent in. First and 10, the Redskins had the ball at the 20. Clinton Portis takes the ball off right tackle. Bulman flows to the ball and into a fierce collision. Portis is stopped for no gain. After the play, he walked back to the defensive huddle and felt a pain in his ankle. He played out the rest of the series hurt. Bulman taped up on the sideline and finished the game. Lots of players exhibit this sort of toughness; it's a necessary part of being an NFL player.
Bulman fought, but not everything went his way. He spent 2 years on the sidelines as a practice squad and rotational player. He was then put on waivers and claimed by the Indianapolis Colts. They also brought in Dan Klecko. They only had one roster spot available and ultimately decided to sign Klecko for his experience. So Bulman drove his Yukon Denali to Houston when the Texans called.
Once again on a practice squad, Bulman didn't stop fighting. He caught and continues to catch Gary Kubiak's eye. Kubiak related: “He’s done a lot of pass rushing with the first group in Nickel and those type of things. He’s a guy that’s earning his keep. He’s done a very good job. He’s going to be hard to keep off the field. That’s the type of worker he is. He’s an interesting kid. I remember last year I went to him and offered to take him on a trip with us when he was on the practice squad. He said, ‘Coach, I’ll go when I earn my trip when I’m playing.’ So he’s earning his trip right now.”
Toro's New Bul
Now Bulman has shined in the Texans OTAs. He told me the best part of the work he's getting with the starters is getting in sync with the front seven. Hearing DeMeco's voice making the line calls. Working out signals with Amobi on stunts. Bulman plays up and down the line rushing the passer and dropping back in coverage. I couldn't get him to say much, but he dropped little hints at how aggressive the Texans defense is going to be this year.
Tim Bulman is always looking for every edge. This offseason he went to his friend Joel Dreessen and learned to long snap. He practiced with Dressen every day after workouts. Eventually, he caught Joe Marciano's eye. Marciano told him to be ready to be a back up long snapper. You're going to see No. 93 making a lot of plays.
Big Jeff, Jethro Franklin, gets under everyone's skin. He has a special way of getting under Tim Bulman's. There's a sign in the Texans locker room for all the defensive linemen to see. "Hard Work Beats Talent. Talent Doesn't Work Hard." Anytime Bulman makes a play, Jethro is calling out "See, hard work beats talent." Bulman always toys with Franklin and asks him if he thinks he's a talented player. Frank Bush has seen how talented Bulman is since his days at Arizona. Bush has been one of Bulman's coaches every year he has been in the NFL.
Bulman's locker is between Amobi Okoye and Dan Stevenson. When he gets ready for games he listens to everything from Cold Play to Metallica, and his tastes cover everything from classics to Eminem. Bulman rides the swell until he's ready to knock someone in the mouth.
The Man Bulman
When he's off the field, Bulman likes to hang out and kick back. He's a city boy that wants a yard in the city big enough to play in. He's got a girlfriend in Boston with her own successful career; she comes to games when she can. His mother makes the best clam chowder in all of New England. His brother Andrew set the J.C.L.A. record with a 667 lbs bench press. Kasey Studdard went up against Andrew on the field and has respect for both Bulmans' strength.
Jeremy Trueblood, the RT for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is his closest friend in the league. They were roommates at Boston College. They train together in the offseason. They battle it out in Halo together. Bulman said that several Texans and even NFL players are Halo players. They get together for big shootouts from time to time.
As we headed out of the restaurant after the interview, I could plainly see that Tim Bulman has a future with the Texans. He's a player in the mold of his fellow BC alum Chris Hovan-- a disruptive high motor player who never stops. "He's going to be hard to keep off the field."
(images via assets.houstontexans.com)