When the summer sun is baking his Carroll County, Miss., farm
and the humidity seems to be soaking up all the oxygen, Buffalo
center Kent Hull begins prowling his 700 acres in a flatbed
truck, armed only with a sack of molasses chips and his
thoughts. Hull spreads the dried molasses along the grass as if
he were liberally sprinkling sugar on his cornflakes, and within
minutes he is surrounded by cows and enjoying his version of a
power breakfast. It's when Hull is commiserating with the cattle
that he feels he can best solve the world's problems. "You can
tell them anything, and they don't fuss or talk back at all,"
Hull says of his cows. "It's perfect."
The key to Hull's arcadia, far away from brooding nosetackles
and lurching defensive ends, is the molasses chips. "Lay those
chips down, and the cows will follow you for 20 miles," he says.
"Whenever they see the bag, they start coming around." Hull, who
was nicknamed Country by his Bill teammates, has spent his life
down on the farm. When Hull was a teenager, his father,
Charles--who was appointed director of the Agricultural
Stabilization and Conservation Service for Mississippi during
the Reagan and the Bush administrations--ran the family farm in
Greenwood, Miss. Hull and his younger brother, Maury, were
charged with the task of corralling the stray cattle. "We'd
spend all day getting worn out chasing those cows," Hull
remembers. "Finally, when I purchased my own farm, I figured out
the deal with the molasses."
Hull bought his first cows when he was a freshman in high
school, after he secured a $3,500 loan from the Farmers Home
Administration. When Hull, a four-year starter at Mississippi
State, signed his first pro contract with the USFL's New Jersey
Generals in 1983, he purchased 17 cows, 17 calves and one bull.
Hull has seen his investment grow steadily ever since, having
parlayed his original $7,500 into a herd of 220 cows, 220
calves, four bulls and a business worth a half-million dollars.
"It doesn't provide the same living as I make playing football,"
says Hull, who holds a degree in business administration and
raises his cattle for beef consumption. "But it's a very liquid
business." Hull has been burned only once in his ranching
ventures, when he invested in a lean-meat processing plant.
"Those people ran off with my money before the first cow even
set a hoof in there," he says.
Standing 6'5" and weighing just a couple of prime-rib dinners
short of 300 pounds, Hull is a bull on the field. "He may be the
only center in the league strong enough to handle any nosetackle
one-on-one," says Colt left tackle Will Wolford, who played on
the Bills' line with Hull for seven seasons. Since joining
Buffalo as a free agent in 1986, Hull has appeared in three Pro
Bowls and has started 163 of the Bills' 166 games. After a
disappointing 1994 season in which Hull and his linemates gave
up 41 sacks, the Buffalo offensive front got a face-lift. With
new starters rookie Ruben Brown and free-agent acquisition Jerry
Ostroski lining up on either side of Hull, the Bills have
allowed only 16 sacks in '95. "When I first got here, Will
[Wolford] and I were new and people questioned our ability,"
Hull says. "This line is no different in terms of youth and new
talent, and now we're blending and beginning to come around."
At 34 and in his 13th season of professional football, Hull is
just glad the team is showing improvement before he retires to
COLOR PHOTO: JOE TRAVER The Bills' center handles his herd and opposing linemen with equal skill. [Kent Hull with cattle]