The Incredible Story of Kansas City Chiefs Coach Deland McCullough and How He Found His Father

Deland McCullough found out his mentor was really his biological father.
Deland McCullough, left, and Sherman Smith. Getty

Deland McCullough, the running backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, always knew he was adopted, but didn't know his mentor was really his biological father.

An amazing story of profound coincidence has taken the sports world by storm. 

Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough, 45, knew he was adopted. His mother, Carol Briggs, gave him up at age 16, after a brief fling with a young man bound for college. 

She never told him she had become pregnant, given birth to a son and put the child up for adoption.

The infant was raised by A.C. McCullough, a local radio host in Youngstown, Ohio, and his wife, Adelle Comer. But when Deland was 2, his dad walked out, leaving him to raised by a single mother in rough part of the city. 

Football was his savior, and he was good at it. He earned a sports scholarship to Miami University in Ohio and briefly played professional football before becoming a coach. He now is considered one of the best running backs coaches in pro ball. 

Still, he yearned to find his biological parents. He ultimately did, only to learn that a fellow coach he had known for decades was his dad.

"The void was there," McCullough told ESPN, which published a long story on the man's search and broadcast an in-depth look at his journey. "I wish that it wasn't, but I think I did a good job of hiding it."

McCullough's natural father is Sherman Smith, the former running backs coach for the Seattle Seahawks. McCullough has known him since high school. 

"If you would have told me to pick who my father was, there's no way I would picked him, because I might have thought I wasn't worthy for him to be my father," McCullough told the sports network. "I felt like my blessings came full circle, because I'd always wanted to be somebody like him."

Smith entered McCullough's life when he was a 16-year-old athlete. Smith recruited the boy to play for Miami and the two stayed in touch.

McCullough kept a photograph of them on his bedside table. Fellow players often commented on the uncanny resemblance between the two. 

"Man, you and Coach Smith look alike," McCullough recalled them saying. "Man, you all walk alike."

At the time, McCullough thought nothing of it. "There's no reason to connect those dots because you weren't even thinking about them," he said. When he learned the big news about his parentage, "a sense of pride ... went through me, like, 'Wow, that explains these things,''' he said.

McCullough connected the dots of his lineage after adoption laws changed, allowing him to unseal his adoption records. He then reached out to his birth mother, Carol Briggs, on Facebook. They spoke, and McCullough asked the identity of his biological father.

Her answer nearly made him pass out, McCullough said.

The reaction to McCullough's saga has been amazing, his mother told Monday. "Although there are many, many comments from adoptees, some with not-so-happy reunions, the vast majority of all responses are positive — wishing us well and commenting on how happy we all looked (we still are!!)."

"There have been a wonderfully overwhelming number of responses on all social media platforms to our story," she said. 

In July, Smith, McCullough and Briggs, along with McCullough's adoptive mother, Adelle Comer, gathered for a family reunion in Youngstown.

Smith said the mind-blowing chain of events is "a God thing." 

When he looks at his son, "the type of guy he is, it was a gift to us," Smith said. "Deland felt we were a gift to him."