Jay Roth knew he had something special in Kristian Fulton in the spring of Fulton’s freshman year.
That’s when Louisiana Tech assistant coach Jabbar Juluke came to practice and said he was offering Fulton a scholarship.
“But coach, he hasn’t played a down yet,” Roth recalled telling Juluke. “So I first realized it when somebody else told me. Then after his sophomore season, I went back and watched his highlight tape and you could tell he was going to be special.”
Fast forward to Tuesday, when Fulton stamped his name in Rummel lore, becoming the first Raider to be named to the Under Armour All-American Game.
He was presented his jersey in a ceremony in the school library.
“It’s surreal right now,” Fulton said. “I’m just thankful to have this jersey. Not too many athletes get to wear this jersey.”
The Under Armour All-American Game, showcasing many of the top high school seniors in the country, will be played Jan. 2 at the in Orlando, Fla.
“To be honest, I never really thought it could get this big for me,” Fulton said.
But it has, thanks in part to his ball-hawking skills that have helped him pick off five passes this season. As a junior, he had 11 interceptions on his way to being named The New Orleans Advocate’s Defensive Player of the Year for Large Schools. His 11 interceptions came despite him missing the first three games of the season with a shoulder injury.
“He’s an exceptional football player, but he is a better kid than he is a football player,” said Nick Monica, Rummel’s co-defensive coordinator. “He is what you want in a student-athlete. He is a humble kid, and you wouldn’t know he was an All-American by just talking to him because he is quiet and humble and just goes about his business on the field and in the classroom.”
So had he not been wearing the All-American jersey Tuesday, you may not have known he was the one being recognized.
“That’s just how I am,” he said. “I don’t like to brag about myself. It’s just something I don’t do.”
Instead, he just goes about his business on the field and his been a key reason why the Raiders have gone undefeated this season against in-state teams.
Rummel looks to keep that streak going Friday when it plays Jesuit in the Division I quarterfinals at Joe Yenni Stadium.
“The players love him,” Roth said. “That’s why he was voted team captain. He isn’t a rah- rah guy who is loud. He is still busting his butt in the weight room, and it’s Week 12 of the season. He’s just a great leader. He doesn’t draw attention to himself. He’s unique. He’s not that brash cornerback you see on TV.”
Fulton credits his success to his early days, playing at the Johnny Jacobs Playground in Marrero.
He started playing when he was around five.
Well, actually it started before then, said Mickey Christian, Fulton’s park ball coach.
Christian was in attendance Tuesday and was just as proud as Fulton’s parents Keith and Michelle.
He remembers when Fulton was 3-years old, running around at practice while older brother Keith, Jr. was playing.
“He was like a little rug rat running around there, interrupting practice” Christian said. “Even when he wasn’t playing, he was always in the midst of practice. We knew he was going to be a good athlete. There was just something in him. He stood out above everybody.”
Now he is disruptive in games instead of park ball practice, which his why quarterbacks rarely throw to his side of the field.
It’s also why college coaches have been salivating to get his signature the first Wednesday in February. He hasn’t scheduled any official visits yet, but lists LSU, Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Florida, Miami and North Carolina as the ones he’s most interested in.
He will worry about that after the season.
For now, he’s focusing on Rummel and trying to win his second state title in three years.
On Tuesday, he was just thankful for his latest accomplishment.
“I’ve played this game since I was five, and it’s just something I have a feel for,” he said. “This was always my favorite sport. My park ball coaches and my dad started with me and made me a good player and my high school coaches made me better. A lot of great players have played here that I look up to. It’s a blessing.”