APTOPIX Miami LSU Football

Miami wide receiver Evidence Njoku (83) and LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton (22) compete for a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. The pass was incomplete. LSU won 33-17. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) ORG XMIT: TXRJ118

Kristian Fulton didn't know how bad the injury was.

At first, LSU's starting cornerback didn't even think he was injured.

It was near the end of the first half in LSU's Week 10 game at Arkansas, and Fulton got folded awkwardly beneath Razorbacks tight end Cheyenne O'Grady, whose 6-foot-4, 251-pound frame fell backward onto Futon, pinning his left leg.

LSU: Fulton injury

Fulton said he initially thought the pain he felt in his left foot was a cramp. He was catching plenty of cramps all game.

"I felt like it was a quick sprain or something," Fulton said Thursday, his first meeting with the media since that injury kept him out of the rest of the season. "I felt like I could have went back in the game, then I went into halftime and it stiffened up."

Fulton was given a week to rest, and he tried to practice the week of the regular season finale against Texas A&M.

He couldn't.

Fulton underwent season-ending surgery, and he said there's still a permanent screw in his left foot.

Fulton was the first of three major cornerback depth hits to LSU, which had to play in the Fiesta Bowl without three of its top corners, including Greedy Williams (sat out for NFL draft) and Kelvin Joseph (violation of team rules). 

Fulton returned to practice on March 28, during the fourth week of spring football, and although he will not participate in Saturday's spring game — LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he's "not even close" — getting back to practice is helping Fulton regain necessary confidence in his foot.

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"It was just good to be back on the field and just put some cleats on," Fulton said.

Fulton said he's "pretty much done" with his recovery, and part of regaining confidence in his foot is just repeatedly running through drills. His body has to get used to the start-and-stop breaks that cornerbacks move through on every play.

The 6-foot, 192-pound Archbishop Rummel graduate will be a senior next season — the final year of eligibility in a rollercoaster career that included a 19-month compliance battle with the NCAA over his using another person's urine for a drug test.

Fulton announced on Twitter in early January that he was "coming for everything" in his return to the Tigers, days after defensive end Rashard Lawrence, linebacker Michael Divinity and nose tackle Breiden Fehoko each announced they were returning.

The mass return bucked a recent trend at LSU, where 35 underclassmen have left for the NFL draft since 2012.

Fulton did seek NFL evaluation, and he said the grade he got back "was a good grade," without saying exactly what round he was projected to be drafted in.

"I knew I could play better," said Fulton, who finished third on the team with 10 passes defended and recorded 25 tackles and an interception. "And I knew I could have a better season coming up, and I knew what team we had coming back."

Fulton said he should be fully recovered by the summer, and when he returns, he'll be focusing on not using his hands as much on defense and defending deep passes better.

Overall, he said he'll be more comfortable going into his fourth season.

"I'm going back into the season with more confidence in myself," Fulton said. "That's a lot that I feel will play a part into my game this year. It's going to be a good year."