Ashland’s Fuller comes from strong bloodline, even if it is defensive

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Ashland junior QB Marcus Fuller accounted for 39 TDs last season. He also has a 4.0 GPA. (Photo by Rob Hardin)

The Ashland University record book is littered with the name Dan
Fuller, much the same way opposing backfields were littered with the
carnage wrought by Fuller during his All-America playing days for the
Eagles. So imagine Fuller’s horror when his only son Marcus told his father he wanted to play – gulp – quarterback.


ASHLAND – The Ashland University record book is littered with the name Dan Fuller, much the same way opposing backfields were littered with the carnage wrought by Fuller during his All-America playing days for the Eagles.

A four-year starter at defensive tackle, Fuller terrorized the now defunct Heartland Conference during the late-1970s and early-’80s. He earned All-America honors in 1981 after making a team-high 87 tackles and 12 sacks for the Heartland Conference champs. The 2000 Ashland University Hall of Fame inductee ranks fourth on AU’s career sacks list (29) and sixth on the career tackles list (372).

Fuller parlayed his collegiate success into tryouts with the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers before a nagging knee injury derailed his playing career. Since then, Fuller has made a name for himself as one of north central Ohio’s brightest defensive minds. His 23-year coaching career includes a six-year stint as linebackers coach at Ashland University and a six-year stretch as the head coach at Northwestern High School. For the past eight years, he’s been the mastermind behind the Ashland High School defense.

So imagine Fuller’s horror when his only son Marcus told his father he wanted to play – gulp – quarterback.

“I always hoped my son would want to play defense,” the elder Fuller said, “but quarterback is something he wanted to do and I wanted him to play the position he was passionate about.”

The decision, it turned out, was a wise one.

Charged with the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Taylor Housewright, the most prolific quarterback in school history, the younger Fuller has Ashland (11-1) on the verge of its second regional championship in three seasons. The Arrows play Mentor Lake Catholic at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Green Memorial Stadium for the Division II, Region 5 crown and a berth in the Final Four.

“Dad has always supported me in my decision to play quarterback,” Marcus Fuller said. “I know he takes some grief from his old college teammates about having a son who plays quarterback.”

Dad admitted as much.

“I was at an AU game a few weeks ago and some of the guys I played with asked, ‘How did you end up with a quarterback?’ ” Dan Fuller said. “They look at it as a ‘soft’ position.”

There is nothing soft about the 6-foot, 195-pound signal-caller, who played linebacker up until his freshman year. He threw for 2,316 yards and 22 touchdowns during the regular season as the Arrows won the outright Ohio Cardinal Conference championship.

“He’s a tough kid,” Dan Fuller said. “He used to play defense and he still likes to hit. He takes that mentality to the offensive side of the ball.”

The All-Ohio candidate, with a big assist from dad’s defense, orchestrated a remarkable comeback in last week’s 19-14 win over Warren Howland. Ashland trailed 14-0 early in the fourth quarter before scoring off three Howland turnovers.

“We were all upbeat on the sidelines,” Marcus Fuller said. “We believed we could win that game. That’s something we pride ourselves on, our ability to handle adversity.”

Having a defensive mastermind under the same roof has helped in the younger Fuller’s development.

“We will watch film together and bounce ideas off each other. I tell him how I would defend him and he tells me what he would do,” Dan Fuller said. “He has known what Cover 2 and Cover 3 are for a long time.”

Marcus said his father is tight-lipped about his storied collegiate career.

“I know he played some defensive end and defensive tackle, but he doesn’t talk much about it,” Marcus said. “I know he had tryouts with some NFL teams.”

Dad also had stints with the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the United States Football League’s Tampa Bay Bandits, not that Dan talks about it much.

“I’ve just always believed everybody has their time,” Dan said. “I’ve never been one to talk about myself much and now I’m focused on my children (Dan and wife Patty also have a college-aged daughter, Courtney).”

Is it tough watching his only son take an opponent’s best shots week after week?

“Fridays can be pretty nerve-wracking,” Dan admitted. “He’s getting hit, but that’s the game. I like watching him play and I like watching him compete.

“A lot of times, I’m talking to the defense and I don’t see what’s happening. We’ll watch film and I’ll ask him, ‘When did you guys do that?’ “

But could the old defensive tackle track down his son in the backfield?

“Could I sack him? I tell him all the time I could chase him down,” Dan said. “He just laughs and says, ‘No you couldn’t.’ “

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