Kristian Fulton told Devin White to turn the car radio down and reached for his cell phone.
“I was like, ‘bro, you’re going to make me turn the music down in my own car?’ ” recalled White, a junior inside linebacker at LSU. “ ‘You better have some good news.’ ”
Fulton hoped it would be.
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At practice Thursday afternoon, Athletic Director Joe Alleva had thrown his arm around the junior cornerback and told him “the fight wasn’t over.”
It had been nearly two weeks since the NCAA denied Fulton’s appeal to reduce his two-year suspension for using another person’s urine during a 2017 drug test. Alleva sent a four-page letter on Aug. 17 to an NCAA interpretive staff, requesting the governing body to reclassify Fulton’s violation to a “urine substitution,” which carries a one-year suspension.
That letter eventually led to the nation’s former No. 1-cornerback recruit’s reinstatement Thursday, but Fulton said up until then, he had truly given up hope.
“I kind of did believe it was over with me playing this season,” Fulton said Monday, during his first media appearance of the season.
Once Alleva left practice, coach Ed Orgeron called the team together after practice and said he “had some good news about one of our teammates.”
“At the time, I didn’t know it was about me,” Fulton said.
Then the phone call in White’s car came.
“He just got out of the car,” White said. “He kept smiling, and he started crying. So, I kind of figured that’s what it was. We went in the locker room and everybody was looking on Twitter. They saw everybody posting it. It was just like, celebration. So happy for him, and just to have your brother back.”
The rest has been written: sophomore cornerback Greedy Williams’ live video; Fulton’s first tweet (“First Day Out nobody but GOD!”); the ensuing buzz on social media.
Fulton said he didn’t realize how big of a story he had become. Last Friday, he went to his sports communication class, and the guest speaker — Sports Illustrated writer Ross Dellenger — talked about Fulton’s story.
Fulton said everyone in the class turned to look at him, and he sat awkwardly silent, smiling
“It was kind of weird,” Fulton said. “With that being such a big topic in the sports world right now — for me to be the guy everybody’s talking about.”
That conversation is now over.
Orgeron and the LSU coaching staff have until Sunday to factor Fulton into the defense. Fulton hasn’t played since the 2016 Citrus Bowl.
“I don’t think I’ll be rusty,” said Fulton, who appeared as a true freshman in the Tigers' 29-9 win over Louisville. “Just a little emotions coming (out) when the game time comes. But at practice at LSU, we go up against some good players, so I feel like I’ll be prepared when the time comes for the game.”
Orgeron said Monday that although Fulton has been practicing with the second- defense, the coaching staff feels “that he’s ready to play and perhaps start.”
“We’re going to make that decision toward the end of the week after we put him in full speed, 7-on-7 and team and see what he does,” Orgeron said.
Orgeron said true freshman Kelvin Joseph will not be returning to safety, although he signed in February as the nation’s No. 5 overall safety by 247Sports. Joseph switched to cornerback when he arrived this summer to help out with depth; but in doing so, he proved to the LSU coaching staff that he belonged at corner.
Joseph, Fulton and sophomore Kary Vincent will now compete for the left cornerback spot, Orgeron said, and by the end of the week, the Tigers will know who will play opposite Williams — a preseason All-American.
“(Joseph’s) proven to us that he can start for the LSU Tigers, and we haven’t made a decision if he’s going to start or not,” Orgeron said. “But we feel very good about him going in there.”
Orgeron said Vincent is also still competing with Stanford graduate transfer Terrence Alexander for the extra cornerback spot in the nickel package.
Whoever starts at left corner will face plenty of man-to-man situations against big, talented receivers, Orgeron said, when the Tigers play No. 8 Miami on Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Orgeron specifically named 6-1, 205-pound Ahmmon Richards as a threat for the Hurricanes — a junior who was named to the freshman All-American team before missing part of the 2017 season with a meniscus injury.
Paired with senior quarterback Malik Rosier, the Hurricanes are expected to build on an offense that ranked 29th nationally in 2017 with 12 passes of more than 40 yards.
“Miami is a very explosive offense,” Orgeron said. If you overload the box, you’ve got one-on-one with their wide receivers. They’re very good football players. You’ve got to be able to tackle in space.”
And Fulton will have to make his debut in the national spotlight in the only game on a Sunday night. Orgeron said he’s used to the scrutiny after being sprayed across national headlines and brought up as a topic in college lectures.
“He knows how to face adversity,” Orgeron said. “I think it’s going to be a big deal for him, but he’s not going to show it. Obviously, we’ll see. That goes away after the first play. You’ve got to be able to perform. But it’s going to be a good story.”