Despite being an All-State high school cornerback, senior tri-captain Mike Fullowan never believed that he would be playing collegiate football, let alone doing so in the carnelian and white. Now, in his final campaign as the starting tailback for the sprint football team, Fullowan couldn’t be happier to have gotten the opportunity.
“Before my senior year [in high school] I had never heard of the [Collegiate Sprint Football League],” Fullowan said. “I only started looking into the possibility because of a former player.”
That player, Brian West ’97, helped put Fullowan in contact with head coach Terry Cullen, who was more than happy to add Fullowan to his defensive unit. Fate would intervene, however, as during the first weeks of practice in Fullowan’s freshman season, the Red’s four running backs all went down with injuries. Originally attempting to convert Fullowan into a linebacker, Cullen called on his freshman to take over duty as custodian of the Red’s ground attack just four days before the opening of the 2003 season.
“I asked Mike if he had ever played running back and he told me he gained 1,200 yards in high school,” Cullen said. “He tore it up in his first game and hasn’t looked back since.”
Though admittedly preferring the physical nature of playing defense, Fullowan immediately felt comfortable at tailback, and his 174 yards and four touchdowns in his first two games at the position showed it.
“The most difficult part at first was getting to learn the offense,” Fullowan said. “It was pretty technical and involved a lot of different formations.”
Fullowan was a quick study, however, as over the course of his first campaign, he rushed for 300 more yards and reached the end zone three more times. That stellar season was followed up by a 564-yard one the following year, plus seven touchdowns.
Using a unique combination of speed and strength, Fullowan has been able to run between the tackles while also breaking outside to hurdle defenders on his way to the end zone.
“He is such a quick runner that he doesn’t need to find much space,” Cullen said. “He’s also strong.”
It appears that injuries are one of the few things that can slow Fullowan down. Tweaking his knee during the waning minutes of the Red’s game with Penn last season put him on the shelf for Cornell’s final game against Army — the only game Fullowan has missed in his collegiate career. Despite the setback, Fullowan was still able to rush for 579 yards and six touchdowns while helping lead the Red to three wins last year — its most since 1997.
“[The injury] didn’t turn out to be too bad,” Fullowan said. “It basically healed itself in the off-season.”
Now, at the onset of his final season, Fullowan has taken on a leadership role in his own quiet, lead-by-example manner.
“When things start slipping a bit on the field, Mike is always the one to make a play and get everyone back in the game,” Cullen said. “He really just lets his leadership show through his performance.”
“I never really yell, but I try and make comments individually if I notice something that could use improvement,” Fullowan said.
With his unassuming demeanor and relatively small stature — Fullowan comes in at 5-7, 155 pounds, well below the league maximum of 172 pounds — he may not stand out in a crowd. Yet, one can’t help but notice him when he is celebrating in the end zone.