Each week during the 2016 college football season, Uplifting Athletes will feature a leader from our nationwide network of student-athlete led chapters.
Name: Sam Tullman
College: University of Pennsylvania
Height, weight, class, position: 6-4, 230 pounds, senior, defensive end
High School: North Shore Country Day School, Wilmette, Ill.
About Sam Tullman: Came to Penn as freshman in 2013 after a strong three-sport high school career on the North Shore just outside Chicago. Tullman did not see any varsity action his first two years, but did see some playing time in 2015 as part of the Quakers 17th Ivy League Championship in program history. Tullman is the President of the Penn Chapter of Uplifting Athletes and has served as a strong and passionate rare disease advocate.
As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?
Tullman: Other than winning, which is an essential part of the Quaker experience we’ve restored, the post-game tailgate is awesome. The parents put together an unbelievable spread for us, so we can eat ourselves to sleep. I know it’s not our nutritionists favorite part of the game day experience, though.
What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?
Tullman: When our defensive coordinator, coach Benson, approached myself and two of my other buddies on the team and told us about this incredible man who he coached when he was at Georgetown – who is currently researching his own rare disease barely two blocks away at Penn. The man’s name is Dr. Fajgenbaum, and calling him an inspiration to the three of us and the rest of our team is an understatement. His cause became our cause, and our cause likewise fit with Uplifting Athletes’ cause. Among other things, it’s given me a sense of perspective. A perspective of what other people are dealing with that I couldn’t begin to understand, and perspective on how many people really do care and are doing something to advance rare disease research and awareness.
What has been your most memorable experience as a college football player?
Tullman: Upsetting No. 4 Villanova last year. That was a goal of mine from before I even played my first snap in practice my freshman year. The intensity during the game, the excitement as we stormed the field and the feeling of accomplishment in the aftermath was only matched in winning the Ivy League Championship.
What is the toughest team you’ve faced or regularly play, and what makes them so difficult?
Tullman: Playing against quality, mobile quarterbacks is always stressful as a defensive player. Lehigh beat us pretty handily last year, as did Dartmouth with quarterback Dalyn Williams. Villanova two years ago was also a tough one when John Robertson was healthy.
Who is your favorite NFL player and why?
Tullman: Cameron Wake. He plays my position (defensive end) and I love the way he plays it, being slightly undersized but making up for it with explosiveness and sheer athleticism. But even more, I love him because he was totally counted out of the NFL and played in Canada for two years to prove himself. He did, and is one of the best in the league as this position, if not the best when he’s healthy.
What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?
Tullman: Cornell. I’ve never been, but it’s where we are going to win and celebrate the championship this year.
What is your major and what are some of your plans and dreams after college football?
Tullman: I’m majoring in biological basis of behavior, which is really just a complicated name for neuroscience. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I’m going to use it. But I know it’s not in research or as a doctor. I’m an entrepreneur and leader at heart, so I think the start-up space is where I’m headed.