Lack of exposure.

"I know a lot of coaches travel to see their prospects," said Culotta, a rangy kid who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds. "I don't think anyone [will] make the flight to Brussels."

That, even though his mom, Dona, is offering the family's guest room to any coach who will make the trip.


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Several college coaches, including James Madison defensive coordinator Kyle Gillenwater, who talked to Culotta or saw him work out this summer, declined to speak specifically about him, citing potential NCAA recruiting violations. Gillenwater, however, talked in general terms about American high school athletes in Culotta's situation.

"I've been coaching 11 years, and this is the first time a situation like this has come up," Gillenwater said. "That tells you how rare it is. We have other sports here, like soccer, where the competition in foreign countries is known to be of the highest caliber. But football is an American game.

"If you send me a tape of Poly vs. Franklin, I'm going to know what I'm looking at. But even if I get a game tape from overseas, I have no idea what they're playing with or against. It makes the evaluation difficult. You have to question the level of competition even with game film.

"It's a challenge," Gillenwater added. "I'd think most in that situation would have to walk on as freshmen and hope to earn [a scholarship]."

According to a story in Stars and Stripes, a self-described independent U.S. military newspaper, a number of DoDDS athletes are finding their way to Division III schools for basketball, soccer and football. But Division III schools do not give athletic scholarships, and the fight for scholarship money in Division I is extremely competitive. The National Federation of State High School Associations reported last year that there were 1.1 million kids playing high school football.

For even one player on a U.S. high school team to receive a Division I scholarship is a rare achievement.

But Offense-Defense Elite Camp coach and director of football operations Artie Gigantino, a former major college and NFL coach and network NFL broadcaster, said he is impressed Culotta took the initiative to spend this summer in football camps to show off his talent and learn what he has to do to get noticed.

"He's a prototype outside linebacker," Gigantino said. "Big, strong, with long arms and he runs fast. If I was still the defensive coordinator at USC, I'd consider him."

And Culotta, whose Brussels team opens the season Sept. 19 on the road against the Barons of Bitburg (Germany) Air Base, said some coaches, such as those at the Delaware, Duquesne and Elon, have been encouraging, asking for game film and follow-up information.

"I plan to play college football somewhere, and though it is an uphill battle getting recognition where I am, I believe I can make that happen -- and make it happen with a scholarship program," Culotta said. "If I am forced to be a walk-on in a program to start, I'll deal with it. ... I think I will size up well against D-I athletes. Continuing to work out, I am getting stronger, bigger and faster."

A two-way starter for Brussels, Culotta's high school football experiences are not those of U.S. players.

When the Raiders go on a road trip, it isn't to a nearby county, it's to a foreign country -- usually Germany, Italy or one of the nations of Great Britain -- "and when we go, the school makes sure we tour all the important sights," Culotta said.

His school has 70 nationalities in its classrooms, but it's football team is one of the smallest in the DoDDS league in both numbers and size.

Last season, Culotta was one of just five players from the United States on his team -- and two of the others were his brothers.

Culotta starred at linebacker and running back, earning the team's Mr. Football award, while leading it in rushing, averaging 5 yards per carry for a total of 476 yards, and adding five tackles a game. He never took a play off. When practice started last month, he was elected team captain.

"It's been a really great experience," he said. "The education is great. My friends are great. I might wish for more competitive football, but I don't think I'd trade it. I've seen all of Europe, which is pretty cool, and I speak French -- not completely fluent, but better."

Culotta will play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl on Jan. 2, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The game, broadcast by Fox Sports Net and Fox College Sports, will give U.S. coaches a chance to see for themselves what kind of talent the Baltimore native has.

"I play in Europe, and coaches want to know, 'What is the level of play there?'ƒ|" Culotta said. "They know if they call my school they'll hear all the good things. So playing in the All-American Bowl, which will be my only high school game in America, can only help. They'll at least get to see me against other U.S. players."