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|Fulford ran against the grain on, off field|
Donald Fulford, bottom right, was chosen as a Miss-Lou Player of the Week by Joe Fortunato and Jim Eidt in 1969. Other players were, bottom row from left, Mike Biglane and Mike Simonton of Cathedral and James Walker and Richie Haydel of Natchez-Adams High and Henry Harris of Sadie V. Thompson.
There are plenty of men in Louisiana who can talk about their high school days of rushing for more than 2,000 yards and being recruited by major colleges.
Very few of them will have a story as unique as Donald Fulford, who rushed for 2,308 yards in two years at Ferriday High in the late 1960s, but failed to live up to the hype at the next level.
"I didn't come back to Ferriday because I felt ashamed," Fulford said. "I did not fulfill my potential."
Anyone who watched Fulford run around Melz Field in 1967 and '68 in his orange and blue No. 44 jersey would beg to differ. Fulford had an amazing blend of power and speed.
"Fulford was tough as a boot," said former Vidalia coach Dee Faircloth, who watched Fulford score 40 points and rush for 222 yards in his first encounter against Ferriday in 1969. "He was one the most outstanding runners Ferriday has had come through."
Fulford's family moved to Ferriday when he was in the fifth grade.
"I was the new kid and different," Fulford said. "The guys weren't very friendly, the girls were."
Fulford went out for pee wee football at the suggestion of league coaches.
"My dad was against it," said the 58-year old Fulford. "He didn't really care for it. He only had a sixth grade education and my mother made it through 10th grade."
L.C. Fulford worked at International Paper.
"He just wasn't interested in sports," Fulford said. "But he kept getting harrassed at work for me to play. There were four of us and we were poor. I had to find someone to ride home with and they would just drop me off at the front of the subdivision."
Fulford said he always liked to run while growing up.
"I always had kids around me who were bigger than me and picked on me," Fulford said. "There seemed to be a game at recess, 'Let's catch, Donald.'"
Fulford played touch football when he moved to Ferriday.
"That was with the big boys like Robert Campbell and my brother, Lawrence, and two older cousins," Fulford said. "I learned to take some hard knocks early. I learned to play at a higher level."
When Fulford went out to play pee wee football, the coaches wanted to put him at the tackle position because of his size.
"Bert Taunton sprained his ankle, so I had to learn the running plays," Fulford said. "Our quarterback, Steve Vogt, had to show me how to hold the ball during P.E. The first game I had three touchdowns. It was fun and exhilarating. I was able to get into the end zone. That's everybody's dream and desire.
"When I first started out all I knew was trying to run over people," Fulford said. "Later, when the competition got better, Coach (Bobby) Marks gave me some game film of Gale Sayers and Jim Taylor and told me to try and do some of the things they did. Jimmy was tough and would run flat over somebody, while Gale was fluid and smooth. I had a hard time understanding some of his maneuvers."
Fulford played football in junior high, but things changed when he got to the high school.
"I did not play becaue I didn't like the coach," Fulford said. "I went to roughnecking in the oilfield. The coach was an obnoxious-type of person and there was nothing I liked about him. Instead of patting me on the back, I couldn't do anything to suit him. I was angry at the man. I turned in a test in his science class with just my name signed on it to make an F to let him know there was a problem here and he needed to see it. I just didn't care for him."
That coach was replaced by Bobby Ray McHalffey, who Fulford ran track for in the spring.
"During track I had a planter wart, but it didn't bother me because I ran on my toes," Fulford said. "It would bust and bleed at other times. We got to spring training and I told Coach that I needed to see a doctor. He told me I was not going to mess up his spring training and if I missed the first day I could not play. I went out there and told him the next day I was going to see Dr. Vogt. He pitched a fit, so I said I was not playing."
Vogt was unable to remove the wart because it was to the bone, but three months later it was gone.
"I just needed to stay off of it," Fulford said.
McHalffey left the next year.
"He was a fireball and I didn't care if I played or not," Fulford said.
Fulford came out for football his junior year in 1968 when Marks was hired as head football coach.
"Coach Marks always had a fine line between being a best buddy and teacher," Fulford said. "He knew how to control people without being abusive. He was a very personable person. He didn't ridicule anyone if they weren't that good. But he would challenge you."
"Donald was one of the best to come out of Ferriday," Marks said. "He was one of the fastest to come through. He ran a 10-flat in the 100. But he was just as quick as he was fast. He would hit the line of scrimmage so fast that the quarterback had a hard time getting him the ball."
Fulford said the thing he remembers about Marks at Ferriday High is that he always had a stop watch around his neck.
"I think he would stop-watch two turtles racing," Fulford said. "And he was always compiling information."
Fulford said Marks was always a caring person.
"He always liked to challenge the kids and more than anything I wanted to please him," Fulford said. "My home family life was not great, but with Coach I didn't feel I had to be up to par on everything. My grandfather was a preacher and it was hell-fire and brimstone. I never felt I lived up to his expectations. I wasn't a bad kid, I didn't do anything wrong. I felt very inadequate. But with a lot of persistance and Coach believing in me I was able to overcome that."
Fulford scored on a 35-yard pass from Eddie Ray Campbell and added an 8-yard TD run in his first varsity game as the Trojans defeated Delhi, 33-6.
Fulford scored on a 6-yard run the following week in a 32-0 blanking of Block.
Fulford added a 1-yard scoring run in a 13-7 win over Wossman in the third week.
Fulford did not score in a 34-13 loss to Winnsboro, which ended a 32-game winning streak for Marks, who was 29-0 as Ferriday Junior High head coach before taking the high school position.
Ferriday defeated Menard 14-0 as Fulford caught a 62-yard scoring pass from Campbell.
Fulford had an 18-yard TD run in a 19-7 win over Winnfield, but did not play in a 40-14 loss to Ouachita because of the flu.
Ferriday tied Tallulah 7-7 before defeating Caldwell 20-13 as Fulford scored on a 1-yard run and had an 81-yard TD scamper called back in the third quarter because of a clipping penalty.
"Tallulah was one of the best teams in the state and when they played us they didn't expect us to be that good," Fulford said. "Our line had Tim Price at 165 pounds and Alan Watkins at 170. I was about 165. Now on defense, Robert Campbell was 6-3, 308 pounds. I didn't like running against Robert."
Ferriday blanked Vidalia 12-0 in its final regular season game to finish
"The thing about Coach Marks that always amazed me is that in college you have two or three offensive and defensive coaches in the press box," Fulford said. "Coach Marks could see everything from the sidelines as if he had a bird's eye view. He could tell me where the openings were and what to do. He kept things simple, but he would do some creative things such as the Statue of Liberty and flea flickers. He watched Notre Dame and Sicily Island and used variations of the Notre Dame Box. He was running the Wildcat years ago."
Fulford said he was also compassionate.
"I got cleated in my leg muscle one night and he looked at me and asked if I could go back in," Fulford said. "It actually ruptured the muscle. He told me to tell him, if not he would send somebody else in."
Fulford kept in shape by playing basketball and running track.
"I loved basketball more than football, but I was only 5-10," Fulford said. "But I got more rebounds because of my strength. I just didn't have the overall coordination I needed. I was too strong. Usually if I got my hands on the ball, it was mine. I showed Russell (Wagoner) how to grab a rebound with two hands and I never got one from him again. He liked to have killed me after that. He got mean on the court. And I could never block Robert Barber's shot. He was awesome.
"I got a technical foul once in ninth grade because I was dribbling the ball and the official blew his whistle, so I stopped dribbling and the ball went so high the official thought I was mad." Fulford said.
After making all-district in 1968, Fulford had higher expectations for 1969.
"My senior year I carried the ball about 20 times a game," Fulford said. "I played running back and safety on defense my junior year, but my senior year I only played on offense because I was getting a lot of carries. And the defense knew I was getting the ball, They would be saying, 'He's coming right here,' and sure enough that's where the play was going. When we played Wossman it was three yards and a cloud of dust. I carried it 30 times that night. One carry was supposed to be up the middle, but there was nothing there, The end and safety were coming in fast and both slipped, so I went outside and went all the way."
Fulford also remembers a game where lineman Lou Love told him to follow him and if he wasn't able to make a push then to run over his back.
"Lou was really fired up and wanting us to beat the team we were playing," Fulford said. "I ran behind him, and sure enough he was stalled up. I put my cleats in the middle of his shoulder pads and jumped over him. That week he kept pulling up his shirt to show people where he got cleated in the middle of his shoulder pads. 'Look at this, but we scored,' he told everybody."
In 1969, Ferriday defeated Delhi 23-6 in its opener as Fulford scored on runs of four and two yards and added a 2-point conversion.
The Bulldogs blanked Block 37-0 in its second game as Fulford rushed for 122 yards.
"I came out after two scores," Fulford said. "Coach Marks believed if you got fatigued late, there was more chance of getting hurt."
Ferriday lost to Wossman 28-8 in its third game as Fulford had 136 yards on 13 carries and scored on a 13-yard run.
The Bulldogs rebounded with a 38-13 win over Winnsboro as Fulford scored on runs of 58 and one yard.
Ferriday defeated Menard 40-22 the following week as Fulford scored on runs of 35, 5 and 18 yards and tallied 218 yards to bring his season total to 634 yards.
Ferriday fell to 4-2 and 1-2 in district with a 42-7 setback to Winnfield. Fulford scored the first touchdown on a 29-yard run, but it was all Winnfield after that.
Ferriday bounced back with a 21-6 win over Ouachita as Fulford scored on two 5-yard runs.
The Bulldogs fell to No. 1 Tallulah 13-7 the following week.
Fulford said Marks noticed in the game that the linebacker was following the pulling guard on the counter play and making the tackle.
"So he called a play where I hit that hole after the guard pulled," Fulford said. "I went 60 yards into the end zone. Later in the game I asked Coach to run that play again. He told me he was sure they had figured that out by now. He ran it later and I got lit up."
Ferriday beat Caldwell 32-6 as Fulford scored two 2-point conversions.
The Bulldogs finished the season against Vidalia, which was depleted by injuries. The Vikings actually scored the first two touchdowns of the game and led 12-8 at halftime before Fulford ran wild in the second half.
Fulford said former Vidalia quarterback and safety Johnny Lee Hoffpauir was his nemisis.
"Johnny had my number," Fulford said. "I couldn't get any lowr than him and couldn't keep him from tackling me. I couldn't tackle him. He gave me my most memorable tackle. I was running around left end real fast and he clipped my feet out from under me. I was all by myself up in the air seeing stadium lights, grass, stadium lights and then stars. I always had a lot of respect for Johnny. He was a tough competitor and I loved playing against him."
Fulford finished the year with 1,377 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and scoring 215 points. His dad didn't miss a game his senior year.
"The guys at the mill messed with him so bad," Fulford said. "My junior year I came in from a ballgame and he asked how many touchdowns I had and how many yards. He was getting grilled at work. He came in one night and said, 'I hear you're pretty good at it.'"
L.C. Fulford saw his son play in Winnfield as a junior before making all his games in 1969.
"He loved it," Fulford said. "He didn't want to miss a game my senior year. But by that time I was set in my ways and he knew I would be leaving home soon."
Fulford signed with LSU and Louisiana Tech. In those days, seniors could sign with a major college and small college.
"I was a country bumpkin and nobody in our family had ever been to college," Fulford said. "I was working in the oil field and making as much money as my dad. I thought about staying around here and going to school at night. But scouts started coming in and I was getting a lot of offers."
Fulford was overwhelmed by the size of LSU.
"They told me they were going to get me a job, but I didn't work right away and I needed money," Fulford said. "I felt totally out of place. I didn't own my own clothes. My girlfriend said she wasn't coming to LSU because it was too big. I called Louisiana Tech."
LSU coaches Dave McCarty and Scooter Purvis came to Ferriday to see if Fulford would re-consider. But Fulford went to work in Alabama before calling Louisiana Tech running backs coach Mickey Slaughter and telling him he was coming to Ruston.
Tech was short on running backs.
"But Coach (Maxie) Lambright wanted me to be a fullback even though I felt I was a halfback and liked running to daylight," Fulford said. "He told me, 'D'Ray, I heard a lot about your power running, so I want to see it.' He called a play and told the defense where it was coming. I ran over the tackle and linebacker, but the defensive end grabbed my shirt and held me up and the safety hit me and broke my jaw on both sides. I was never expected to play after that. They told me I could stay on scholarship as a manager, but if I couldn't play, I didn't want to play."
Fulford had his jaw wired for four months and was on a liquid diet.
Fulford did return the following year, but was behind sophomore Roland Harper at that time.
Harper became a starting fullback for the Chicago Bears where he was known in his playing days as a punishing blocker who opened holes in opposing defenses for star halfback Walter Payton. Harper ranks sixth on the Bears' all-time rushing list with 3,044 yards and 15 TDs on 757 carries in seven seasons.
"Speed-wise I was one of the fastest on the team and had more power, but my blocking was horrible," Fulford said. "I got into games in short yardage situations, but came back out. Harper was a very good blocker. We had some great players in Pat Tilley, Roger Carr and Fred Dean."
Fulford scored on a 19-yard touchdown run in a 35-14 win over Texas-Arlington.
"Every person on the Texas-Arlington team hit me at least once," Fulford said. "But I carried it all the way to the end zone. The next day at practice, Coach Lambright said 'Nice run, D-Ray, but you look like a pregnant woman.' They had always wanted me to gain weight, so I was up to about 215 pounds."
Tech beat Mississippi Southern 33-14 as Fulford scored two touchdowns.
"Mississippi Southern had a defensive end (Johnny Cook) who was something else," Fulford said. "I went up to catch a pass and he hit me real hard around my heart area and knocked me in the air. It knocked me out and knocked him out. The trainers came out and couldn't get the ball out of my hands. When I came to I told them I wasn't letting go of the ball because I knew I would get in trouble."
Fulford believes his size kept coaches believing he was a power back despite his speed.
"I think it was a mental perception," he said.
Fulford quit the team just before the Bulldogs beat Tennessee Tech in the 1971 Grantland Rice Bowl.
"We were playing in a game where we had 500 passing yards in the third quarter, but a negative -40 yards rushing," Fulford said. "Coach Lambright called me over and put me in. I picked up 47 yards on three carries and got inside the 10-yard line when they pulled me and put Harper in. We lost 23 yards on the next three plays and ended up kicking a field goal. I kept waiting to go back in but I waited and waited, I don't know what Lambright didn't like about me. I know he was always trying to get some kind of reaction out of me, but I was not an emotional person and you didn't want to see me angry. I decided not to play after that. I just felt useless."
Fulford went to work at a glass company and for ATT and worked as an instrumentation electricial for 20 years.
"I had my first heart attack when I was 35 years old and have had two open heart surgeries," he said.
And if he could do anything different?
"I would have probably gone to Oklahoma," he said. "I knew the brother-in-law of one of the coaches who owned half of a car dealership and offered to let me live with them on his farm. Oklahoma had a tremendous ranning game then."
Oklahoma did not offer a scholarship to Fulford, but he said he would have walked. He did turn down several other offers.
"In my last game against Vidalia a scout from Notre Dame was there and gave me his card," Fulford said. "I asked a friend where Notre Dame was and he didn't give me the answer I wanted to hear."
Fulford now lives in Benton, Ky. He has two sons and one daughter, Becky, and four grandchildren.
"Clint, my oldest, played football at Calvary," Fulford said.
Patrick played football in Michigan City, In., and was an all-conference linebacker.
"He was sure enough tough," Fulford said. "He was like a golden retriever. He wasn't real fast, but he could get to where he was going."
Fulford worked hard on being a good father to his children.
"I've always been about family because of my childhood," Fulford said. "It was important to me to have a close-knit family. And they have always been good kids."
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