It was already a birthday unlike any other.
Stranded at home, UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich was watching a “King of Queens” marathon on Lifetime with his siblings Thursday when they informed him that his phone was ringing on the other side of the family living room.
Dulcich saw that it was Chip Kelly calling and figured that his coach was just checking in with him to see how he was doing amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. After exchanging some pleasantries, Kelly got to the point: Dulcich, a redshirt freshman walk-on, would be put on scholarship.
Dulcich thanked his coach but played it cool until ending the call.
“When I hung up the phone,” Dulcich said, “it was pretty loud in here.”
He sprinted over to the dining room to give his mom a hug before his siblings converged for what Dulcich described as “a big ol’ family hug.” They celebrated over a birthday dinner of chili cheese dogs and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, the dessert made just the way Dulcich likes it.
Kelly made it clear to Dulcich that the scholarship was not a birthday present so much as a reward for all of his hard work. Dulcich caught a 20-yard touchdown pass last season against San Diego State and has made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, requiring at least a 3.0 grade-point average, during every quarter since his arrival.
“He was pretty adamant about making me feel like I earned it,” Dulcich said, “and that was really cool of him to put it like that.”
Dulcich has gone from the fringes of a deep tight end corps to a mainstay after the departures of Devin Asiasi, Jordan Wilson and Matt Lynch. Dulcich and Mike Martinez are the only returning tight ends who caught passes last season.
That Dulcich received such heartwarming news at a time of global crisis only heightened his gratitude for his coach’s gesture.
“I heard from a lot of people that they’re really proud of me and really excited about it because it’s been a hard couple of weeks, so it’s definitely nice to understand and just be appreciative for all that you have,” Dulcich said. “I think this whole experience is just kind of a way for us to understand how grateful we should be and all the stuff we have, we shouldn’t take it for granted.”