Demetrious McCullen: Coaching Kids to Ride the Wave

By: Tim Rogers / Kontoor Brands Feb 09, 2023 Feature Story Tags: Employees, Workplace, Black history month

It might sound like a backhanded compliment to compare your office to a submarine, but for Demetrious McCullen, who works in the basement warehouse of Kontoor’s SSC, the analogy is meant as high praise.

“I'm a people person, and I can tell that working here reminds me of being on the sub and being back in the Navy because it's a really tight-knit group,” says McCullen, who joined the company 10 years ago after a decade in the Navy working as a weapons instructor and managing the supply department on a submarine. “Everybody feels like they're family. People just embrace you, inspire you. And that actually helped me get over a lot of PTSD.”

McCullen says he was in a different head space when he returned from Afghanistan 10 years ago. After working briefly as a security supervisor at VF, he turned the job into a career, moving to his current position as shipping and receiving specialist and chairman of Kontoor’s first responders’ team. He says he feels the love at work every day and plays it forward on the weekends in his community.

“I've been a coach in the community for years. I go into a lot of bad areas around the city, and I’ve had the privilege to help a lot of kids just get ready for college, talk to their parents, get ready for the military, get ready for adult life. And to me, that's the most important thing, to see them just heading on that right track,” McCullen says. “You just want to help your community from facing these disparities.”

McCullen says being a youth sports coach is the same as being a life coach. It’s a mentorship that helps give young people the value set and tools they need to deal with life’s challenges.

“I tell kids, honor your parents. Honor your parents, but also honor yourself. Have some integrity. It's okay to have integrity. And it's okay to be sophisticated and have a great attitude,” McCullen says. “I tell them to stay focused. You have to be focused throughout the day because obstacles will come. Just like being on the ocean. You can't control the wave. So, you have to be ready for that next wave.”

Officially, Black History Month runs for 28 days in February. But for McCullen, the commitment to uplifting black communities doesn’t end when the calendar turns.

“It’s every day. Every day,” McCullen says. “It's from January 1 to December 31. That's a true fact.”

"I tell kids, honor your parents but also honor yourself. Have some integrity. It's okay to have integrity, to be sophisticated and have a great attitude." - Demetrious McCullen, specialist, shipping & receiving at Kontoor