NFL.com’s "Why I Play" series provides a thoughtful peek into the minds of the next generation of NFL players to better understand what drives them to make it in the league. Other prospects included in this series: TCU DT Ross Blacklock, Auburn DT Derrick Brown, TCU CB Jeff Gladney, Florida edge Jonathan Greenard, USC OT Austin Jackson, Utah CB Jaylon Johnson, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor and Michigan LB Josh Uche. This edition’s featured prospect is …
Kristian Fulton, cornerback, LSU
2020 NFL Draft standing: Fulton sits at No. 43 in NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s ranking of the top 150 prospects and is projected to be an early-round draft pick.
Prospect bio (from NFL.com draft profile): Fulton was called "K-Baby" by older teammates when he arrived in Baton Rouge as one of the top 30 prospects in the country in 2016. The 2015 New Orleans Advocate Defensive Player of the Year (high school honor) played in just three games as a true freshman (two tackles), however, and then found himself in real trouble after the season. Fulton received a two-year suspension from the NCAA for having someone else provide urine for a PED test sample. Fulton said he had used marijuana two days prior, thought he would be caught, and then tried to tamper with the test. Fulton sat out all of 2017, practicing with the team, but was reinstated before the 2018 season after an NCAA interpretation panel reviewed the case. He started 10 games for the Tigers that year (25 tackles, one interception, nine pass breakups), missing the final three games with an ankle injury. Fulton played well during LSU’s undefeated national title run, starting all 15 games and posting 38 stops, one for loss, an interception, and a team-high 14 pass breakups.
This interview, conducted via phone call on April 14, was condensed and edited for clarity.
How I started
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I started playing when I was 5 years old because I saw my brother, Keith, playing. I also played basketball and ran track, and it wasn’t until my sophomore or junior year of high school that I started to focus on football. It seemed like everyone in my high school got recruited, and at a spring practice in my sophomore year, I got my first offer to Lousiana Tech. LSU was my second or third offer, I think. I remember watching Tyrann Mathieu play at LSU and I loved the way he was always around the ball. That stood out to me. I met him in the recruiting process and after visiting the school, I knew that’s where I wanted to go.
I look to my own journey for inspiration. Just seeing what I went through, when I was suspended for a year in college, I know how bad things can get. I use that for motivation. Being away from football for a long time, I learned to lean on the people around me. I didn’t always do that. My family helped me a lot, people at LSU, my teammates. All of those people played a part in getting me through those times. I learned to open up more and that not everybody around me has my best interest in mind. And to hold myself accountable, using how to deal with adversity and apply it on the field.
I really just want to be the best at my position and you gotta take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of you and motivate the guys underneath you and show them the way.
Positive influences on me
My position coaches at LSU, Corey Raymond and Dwayne Thomas, were always there for me, pushing me through the tough times. When I was suspended, they never treated me like an outcast and were people I could go to with things going on in my life. They did a lot for me on and off the field.
Ryan Clark has been a mentor for me, too. I trained with him and he’s finding little things to critique my game. Working out with him, I get to pick his brain and with him being in the NFL for 13 years, there’s a lot to learn from him.
My "why" is my parents, my brother and the kids coming up. I know there are a lot of people watching me and looking up to me. I want to have a positive impact on everyone I come in contact with.
Follow Brooke Cersosimo on Twitter @BCersosimo.
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