To Weber State fans, he's tough, scrappy, hard-working Kyle Bullinger, steely-eyed basketball player.
To the students at Layton High School, he's Mr. Bullinger.
The truth is, they're both right.
When he's not helping the Wildcats win Big Sky Conference games, Bullinger, a senior forward, is a student teacher LHS. Whatever the future has in store for the Wildcats, in the coming months their starting small forward will graduate and go pro. Not in basketball mind you, but in something far more important in the grand scheme of things.
He wants to teach, to help shape young minds.
"Both my parents are teachers," Bullinger said. "So I've kind of been around it my whole life."
His father teaches chemistry and physics and helped coach; his mother teaches business and accounting. They both taught at Kyle's high school, Mountain View, in Mountain View, Wyo.
"I had at least one of them every day in my high school career," he said.
As a kid, Bullinger probably had dreams of becoming a star on the basketball court, not the classroom. But having seen the importance of giving young people the tools they need to succeed, he felt a desire to give back.
"I wasn't ever set on (teaching) per se until I got into college and realized a lot of the people that made me who I am and influenced me in life are teachers," he said last weekend, after scoring 10 points and adding eight rebounds in the Wildcats' 84-75 victory over Eastern Washington.
"The profession of teaching has been important to me. I think I owe it to the profession to do the same (for others)."
That's a powerful statement, one that seems guaranteed to make those who know him Kyle Bullinger fans, regardless of which school they root for.
WSU coach Randy Rahe, himself a former high school teacher, certainly is a fan.
"He's a fabulous kid," he said. "I think he'll be phenomenal. I'm not sure there's a better candidate -- a better person -- out there to become a teacher and a coach. It's just the kind of person he is."
At 6-foot-6 with lanky arms and a solid outside shooting touch, Bullinger would be an obvious addition to any high school coaching staff. And As Rahe indicated, as he gets into teaching Bullinger also plans to get involved in coaching, just as his father did.
"I'd love to coach, absolutely," Bullinger said.
Said Rahe: "He's going to be great in the classroom, and on the court. If he can get his team -- well, he WILL get his team -- to play the way he plays, he's going to win a lot of games."
Between now and then, Bullinger will learn a lot more about motivating students -- the ones who play for him as well as the ones who come to his classroom.
Opening minds and cultivating a deeper understanding is a part of the process he has grown to love.
As a student teacher at Layton, he's involved in teaching history, political science and government.
"Those are the fun ones," Bullinger said. "If you can get kids engaged (in discussions) especially about political science, that's what I really enjoy."
A key trait for any teacher or coach is honesty and Bullinger was completely forthcoming when he admitted he wasn't as tuned-in to history, government and the political process when he was in high school.
"When I got to college I was embarrassed at my lack of knowledge given current issues," he said. "It wasn't where it needed to be in order to be an effective citizen. So, I started taking the classes, took a liking to them and now I really enjoy them."
A willingness to learn, a desire to teach AND the ability to shoot, score, rebound and play defense? Is it any wonder there's a certain pride Rahe takes in talking about his small forward/student teacher?
"He's a tough, hard-nosed kid," he said. "I love him to death. He's one of my all-time favorites."
And given all that, whether he's Kyle the basketball player or Mr. Bullinger the civics teacher, I'll bet he's one of your favorites, too.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247