By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A few good men suit up every week and take the field for the Wildcats.

Cullen Plousha has established himself as one of them.

Plousha was a backup in 1992 and thought about giving up football last year while recovering from a shoulder injury. But after watching the Wildcats on TV every week and seeing how good they were, all he wanted to do was get back in an Arizona football uniform.

"I was in awe of the team," said Plousha, a 6-foot-3, 193 pound wide receiver. "I noticed from the year before how much they had improved. I was skeptical if I could play with these guys."

Return he has. Plousha worked during the spring and summer to come back and since has been one of the surprises for the Wildcats.

He has caught three passes for 27 yards and ran for 31 yards on a reverse play in the New Mexico State game. But it's other aspects he has excelled in.

"It's the little things I've been doing like blocking, hustling and giving a good effort," said Plousha, a 27-year-old senior. "Those are the things people don't see."

For someone who never played high school football but instead lettered in golf, all that he has accomplished is quite astonishing.

Upon graduating from high school, Plousha joined the Marines. After beginning in infantry, he was moved to the Washington, D.C., honor guard where he was assigned duty at the White House. His tour of duty involved traveling the world as part of the elite 30-man silent drill platoon and spending time around the President rather than in combat.

"I liked it because I like being clean all the time, having your uniform squared away looking good representing the Marine Corps," Plousa said. "Combat is like being in the trenches in football. Nobody sees what's going on."

He became the leader of his drill platoon and reached the rank of corporal. In 1989, he was selected as the U.S. Marine of the Year after four years in the service.

That led to breakfast with at the White House with the Bushes and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.

"That's not something you do every day," he said.

While playing flag football in the Marines, his friends told him he should try playing at a junior college some day. That suggestion led him to become a receiver at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif.

"That first year was a learning experience," he said. "I was lost. The coach told me to be patient."

Eventually, he established himself and caught the eyes of recruiters before arriving at Arizona.

"His first spring here was not a bells and whistles kind of year," Arizona offensive coordinator Duane Akina said. "He struggled learning how to play. He looked like it would be hard for him to contribute. But it's been one of those happy endings."

Plousha spent the last two years with the UA track team running sprints and relays. He plans to rejoin the team next spring.

"Track is more of an individual thing," he said. "It's more personal pride. I just want to see how fast I can get my times down."

After leaving the corps, his thoughts shifted toward working on joining the FBI or the Secret Service because he was around them throughout his military service. But he was advised to go back and get a degree, which he did. Since graduating in May with a sociology degree and spending these days working toward a master's in education as a graduate student, he's hoping there will be options.

But for now, it's all football. As the men and women of the service will be honored tomorrow at Armed Forces Day, Plousha will instead have his thoughts on helping the Wildcats storm down the field.

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