O'HARA: How Fulgham fell in love with football

Before Travis Fulgham ever put on a pair of football cleats he had already seen some of the greatest sights of the world that included the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and King Tut’s tomb.

When he suited up for the first time – cleats, shoulder pads, helmet and the rest of the gear for his debut practice as a junior at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Va. – he was hooked on football.

“As soon as I put on the pads,” the Detroit Lions’ rookie wide receiver said after Tuesday’s minicamp practice when asked how quickly he got bit by the football bug.

“It’s the ultimate team sport. I played pretty much every team sport in the world. This is different. It’s all 11 men competing for one goal.”

He was late to the game but fast – fast enough to become a starter at Old Dominion and get drafted by the Lions in the sixth round after five years in college.

Fulgham isn’t exaggerating when he talks about playing every sport in the world. His parents traveled the world as members of the United States diplomatic corps.

Travis did not live in the United States until his family relocated to Virginia when he was a 14-year-old high school freshman. Before that, he lived in Jordan, South Africa, Egypt and India.

He turned to football when he changed schools after his sophomore year and discovered that Broad Run did not have a good basketball program. Fulgham already had played baseball and basketball – both sports that would help his hand-eye coordination in his new sport of football.

"The school wasn’t focused on basketball,” he said. “I had an opportunity to play another sport. I had an opportunity to play football and took it.”

He liked everything about football – even the contact.

“I love it, really,” he said. “It’s part of the game.”

He was a walk-on as a redshirt at Old Dominion in 2014 and earned a scholarship that year for his performance in fall camp. He improved quickly – from six catches for 89 yards in 2015 to 29 catches for 478 yards and eight TDs in 2016.

View photos from 2019 Detroit Lions Media Day on Monday, June 3, 2019.

He had a big 2018 season, catching 63 passes for 1,083 yards and nine TDs.

At 6-2 and 215 pounds, he gives the Lions another receiving prospect with good size. His Combine 40 time of 4.58 seconds was not blazing, but he showed at Old Dominion an ability to use body position, size and sure hands to make catches down the field.

With nine catches for 188 yards and a TD, Fulgham’s individual performance in Old Dominion’s 49-35 win over Virginia Tech drew rave reviews from ESPN analyst and former Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky that Fulgham’s skill set could transfer to the NFL.

Orlovsky watched video of the Old Dominion-Virgina Tech game to prepare for a Tech game he was doing for ESPN later in the season.

“I liked him going into the draft,” Orlovsky said in a post-draft video analysis for detroitlions.com.

“This guy downfield makes crazy contested catches, competitive catches. There’s not a single clip on tape where there’s a contested catch – meaning the defensive back is right there at contact or he’s got to shield the cornerback or extend his arms – that the catch is not made.

“It’s crazy how good this guy is downfield in those one-on-one or opportunity balls. He reminds me so much of Marques Colston of the Saints.”

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