The chances of sophomore tailback Michael Fullowan being thrust into that position and succeeding immensely goes beyond rare.
A third-team all state defensive back in New Jersey, Fullowan arrived on the Cornell campus as a freshman trying to break in as a small linebacker.
“He wrestled at 137-pounds in high school. He was kind of a smurf,” said head sprint football coach Terry Cullen about his star tailback.
Fullowan did not last long at linebacker, however. After three of the Red’s four tailbacks went down with injuries during the preseason last year, Cullen started looking through his ranks for another tailback. It was at that time he came across the freshman.
“I was asking around to see who had played tailback before and [Fullowan] said he had played a little in high school,” Cullen said. “Then, he just lit it up.”
In just his second game, Fullowan earned Cornell Varsity Athlete of the week honors as he ran wild over Princeton, rushing for 143 yards and three scores on just 12 carries in Cornell’s 46-18 victory.
This was no fluke, though. Fullowan continued to impress teammates and opposing teams alike, averaging 93.3 yards per game for the entire season, including games of 106 yards and 96 yards over Navy and Penn, respectively.
At the end of the season, Fullowan had definitely established himself as the Red’s primary offensive weapon, rushing for a total of 459 yards and seven touchdowns. Those stats are not too bad for a guy who began the season trying to earn a spot as a back-up on the other side of the ball.
To complete the remarkable story, the 5-7 running back also earned unanimous all-CSFL honors. This marked the first time in Cullen’s long-term memory that the feat had been achieved by a freshman.
“He’s the whole package,” Cullen said. “He’s got great hands, great vision and he’s tough…everything you want in a running back.”
So tough, in fact, that, when Fullowan suffered a hip pointer during preseason practice this year and the trainer thought it might put him out for the entire season, he was back within just three practices.
“He’s flat out tough. He doesn’t back down. A nice kid, but tough,” Cullen said.
This season, Fullowan, now bulked up to about 155 pounds, appears to be on track for another stellar campaign. Having already run for a total of 198 yards through the Red’s first three contests, the sophomore has accounted for all of Cornell’s touchdowns, including one beautiful passing score on a halfback option.
Meanwhile, with the loss of several key senior wide receivers from last season, coupled with the season-ending knee injury to sophomore wide receiver Eli Northrup, the Red could come to rely on Fullowan even more as its key offensive weapon.
“He is real important to our offense. He’s now our best possession receiver,” Cullen said.
Opposing teams, however, have not forgotten Fullowan’s impressive performances from last year. Recently, Cullen noted, teams have seemed to be specifically guarding against the run when playing Cornell.
In response to this defensive scheme, Cullen hopes to open up the offense through the air and get the ball into Fullowan’s hands in other ways besides just hand-offs.
“[Opposing teams] have been ganging up, up front against us,” Cullen said. “We’re trying to work on throwing the ball to [Fullowan].”
Through the air and on the ground, it appears that getting the ball into the hands of this converted linebacker can only result in positives for the Red, and the team clearly reaps the rewards of his talent.
Archived article by Scott Reich