|Marc Bulger observes this year's collection of players during Friday's session of the Bob Huggins Fantasy Camp.
|WVU Sports Communications photo
The Bob Huggins Fantasy Camp is not just about inviting back former Mountaineer basketball players to work with the fantasy campers.
This year, two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Marc Bulger joins a roster of WVU greats that includes Rod Thorn, Darris Nichols, Kevin Jones and former Mountaineer center Mike Heitz for this year’s camp, which began Friday and lasts through Sunday.
Bulger says when it comes to giving the fantasy campers basketball advice, he won’t be telling them to read the safeties.
“I’ve learned if you don’t know what you’re talking about just keep your mouth shut,” he joked. “At one time I was a good basketball player and I actually tried to shoot around down there and I couldn’t even dribble. It was embarrassing.”
Bulger, who quarterbacked West Virginia to a pair of bowl game appearances in 1997 and 1998 during a four-year career that ended in 1999, spent eight seasons with the St. Louis Rams from 2002-09, becoming a full-time starter in 2003. Twice he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2003 and 2006, earning MVP honors during his first appearance after leading the NFC to a 55-52 victory over the AFC.
Bulger’s best pro season came in 2006 when he passed for 4,301 yards and 24 touchdowns for the 8-8 Rams.
However, injuries began to take a toll late in his career and his production declined substantially. During his final season in St. Louis, in 2009, he appeared in just 10 games, completing 56.9 percent of his pass attempts for 1,469 yards and five touchdowns.
In 96 career games, the Pittsburgh native completed 1,969 of 3,171 passes for 22,814 yards and 122 touchdowns. His career numbers puts him in a similar category of quarterbacks such as Washington’s Doug Williams, Pittsburgh’s Kordell Stewart and Dallas’ Don Meredith.
Three times, in 2003, 2004 and 2006, Bulger ranked among the top passers in the league playing for Rams coach Mike Martz.
“Coach Martz was the perfect fit for me,” said Bulger. “It was making reads and you knew where to go with the ball. Tom Brady has been in the same system. Peyton Manning has been in the same system.”
Today, the pro game seems to be switching to the more mobile quarterback that is a product of the spread offenses now prevalent in the college game. But Bulger points out that when he came into the league in 2000 mobile quarterbacks such as Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb were also coveted.
“I think it’s cyclical,” he said. “When I was coming out it was getting more into a running quarterback league and then it went back. I think it’s going back a little more (to the mobile style).”
“I think the NFL is changing because they are not playing traditional football in college any more. It’s 60-70 percent doing the spread and I don’t think they are learning how to read defenses,” he said. “They are just learning how to take snaps in a lot of cases. I think the NFL is adapting to what colleges are doing, but I think defenses will figure that out and it will go back and forth.”
What hasn’t gone back and forth is the topic of injuries in the sport. Do a Google search on “football brain injuries” and you will find enough material to keep you occupied for many days to come. Bulger admits he was a part of the pro football culture of doing whatever it took to stay in the lineup on a weekly basis.
“I think everything that is going on right now is a little exaggerated,” he said. “Guys, for the most part, knew what they were getting into. We were always fed pain pills and we had to get them. A lot of doctors didn’t want to prescribe them. I would say half the team took Toradol injections before games. It got me through a lot of games. If there were consequences, hopefully we learned from them, but I don’t think retroactively going back blaming team physicians and doctors is helpful.”
Bulger estimates that he had probably 15-20 concussions during his playing career, but only had “three or four” that were diagnosed as such.
“I think (concussions) affect everyone differently,” he said. “Some guys are more susceptible. I’ve seen guys absorb minor hits and get concussions and others are getting them and can come back quicker. It’s not a black or white issue.”
As for his decision to play football, Bulger said he wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
“If it gives my kids a better life then it was worth it,” he said. “I came in here thrilled to death that I had a scholarship at 165 pounds, and to have the career I had in the NFL, played in a couple of Pro Bowls, and for what the NFL did for me I can’t thank them enough, rather than accuse them for anything.”
Today, Bulger, his wife Mavis, and daughters Elsa and Iris are living year-round just outside of Sarasota, Fla.
“We really like it down there,” he said.
Since retiring in 2010 following one season as a backup in Baltimore, Bulger said he has purposely stayed away from the game.
“When I was done in Baltimore I pretty much wanted to take a few deep breaths,” he said. “I had just had my first daughter then so now I’m getting a little more engaged, but I think I just needed a couple of years to just decompress a little bit.”
Bulger has become an avid golfer who recently made an appearance on the Golf Channel Show “The Big Break.” He says he is about a 5-handicap today after once being a 1.
"When I was playing football I would get in about two or three rounds a year and I was a 1 and now I’m playing a lot more year-round and I was up to an 8 this past year,” he said.
Bulger says the last time he was in Morgantown was three years ago in 2011 when he was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. He indicated that he would like to get back here more often if his schedule permits.
“It’s amazing how much this town is growing and being in this building for the first time it’s impressive,” he said. “Any excuse to get back down here I’m for it.”