NEW ORLEANS — Over the last four years, Kristian Fulton has rarely used the word “I” when dealing with reporters.
Instead, Fulton has always maintained a team-first approach.
That’s what helped Fulton not only lift Archbishop Rummel (Metairie, La.) to a pair of state championships and a runner-up finish in 2015, but the aura of being the nation’s No. 2 cornerback.
The latter is what has brought the 6-foot, 170-pound five-star prospect into the center of attention.
Over the past month, the shy, always-humble 17-year-old Fulton has drawn the attention of SEC coaches all across the country– from Texas to Florida to South Carolina– and nearly every state in between.
In the rare position of focusing on “me,” Fulton has truly struggled with not only the decision, but the process as a whole.
“It’s a lot of pressure, obviously,” Fulton told SEC Country. “With LSU being in state, and then I also have to think about what’s best for me and what’s best for my family … I just have to control it all, and I can’t let it get out of hand. I have a lot of people helping me — to stay humble — and to think about each school and what each school has to offer.”
From 26 reported offers, Fulton has narrowed the field down to three: LSU, Arkansas and Florida.
As it stands now, Fulton described the race this way: “It’s as close as even at it gets.”
That in itself has taken a toll on the nation’s No. 21 player.
Even Rummel coach Jay Roth admitted it’s difficult to see his stud cornerback struggle with the decision. Fulton explained that it occupies most of the hours in his day, and it’s been that way for much of January.
“I haven’t had any free time. I can tell you that right now,” said Fulton, shaking his head. “I’ve had coaches come by every day last week and every day this week. When all of these visits are over, I can finally think about it.”
In the last month, Fulton has met with LSU coach Les Miles, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, Florida coach Jim McElwain and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp. He’s seen some of those coaches — and their assistants — on more than one occasion.
Fulton has also taken two of his three scheduled official visits — to LSU (Jan. 15) and to Arkansas (Jan. 22). He’ll be in Gainesville, Fla., for the final weekend of January.
Both Fulton and his family are placing a major emphasis on the official visits before ultimately making a decision in the 48 hours that lead up to National Signing Day.
Days away from making that announcement, Fulton can barely come to terms with the fact that he has to trim his list from three to one in less than a week.
“It’s going to be tough,” he admitted. “I know all three schools have something to offer. That’s why they’re in my top three. Unfortunately, I have to let two schools down, but I wish I could be at all three.”
“It’s scary,” Fulton added. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do right now. I guess it depends on how this last visit (to Florida) goes. I don’t know whether it’ll be down to three or two; I just haven’t made my mind up yet.”
In LSU, Arkansas and Florida, Fulton sees three vastly different futures ahead of him.
LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond envisions Fulton as an immediate contributor in the Tigers’ secondary next season.
The Arkansas coaches consider Fulton the missing piece, or as he put, “the icing on the cake” in this year’s recruiting class.
Likewise, Florida’s coaches have tried to sell Fulton on being the next great defensive back to fill the voids left behind by future NFL players.
The pressure of pleasing the state of Louisiana versus chasing a vision as a rising SEC program versus joining a perennial contender elsewhere — no, it hasn’t been easy.
Fulton’s mother and father have tried to lend a hand throughout the process and have let their son know they’ll support him wherever he chooses on Feb. 3.
“They want the best for me, but it’s my decision,” Fulton explained. “They are just trying to pick out the best parts for me and are just letting me know what they feel is best for me. It would be tough (leaving Louisiana), but they would be OK with it.”
For the few hours remaining between now and Fulton’s announcement on Signing Day, one of the nation’s elite prospects will have to do something he has rarely done in his standout high school career — focus on himself.
That way, when he signs his letter of intent he can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“All of this attention, it’s been a blessing for me,” he added. “It’s all coming forward for a good thing. Some day, I’ll just take it all in and have fun with it.”