|ESPN.com: Football||[Print without images]|
John Fulton learned last January that his father would be deployed to Afghanistan in April and miss the four-star cornerback's senior season.
|John Fulton is finding ways to include his father in his senior season, even though he is deployed overseas.|
His father would also be overseas during the recruiting process.
"It's kind of sad because he's my No. 1 fan," Fulton said. "He went to all of my games -- football and basketball and everything."Although his father is thousands of miles away, Fulton has made sure he is still a part of his senior year.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound prospect started his recruiting process in the spring when his father was home, and they were able to visit Georgia together. According to Manning (S.C.) High School coach Robbie Briggs, the uncommitted recruit was able to narrow down his top schools to Alabama, Florida and Georgia before his father had to leave.
The No. 4 CB and No. 42 overall player on the ESPNU 150 is also considering South Carolina, his father's favorite football team.
Briggs says that John Fulton Sr. is one of the biggest supporters in Manning High School's history. In addition to being at all the games and encouraging all of the players, he even wears custom-made jerseys to all of the Monarchs' games.
While deployed, the Army drill sergeant has kept in contact with Briggs about the team and his son's performance.
"They've got a phone on base in Afghanistan where he is, and he calls me at least once every two weeks," Brigg said. "What's so funny is he asks about other kids before he asks about John."
Fulton's father also stays in contact with college coaches like Alabama's Nick Saban and Florida's Urban Meyer to ask questions about his son's recruitment.
Briggs sends game tape to the recruit's father, although this season Fulton was sidelined by a high ankle sprain for the first four games of the season.
"You could tell it was really eating at him, but he was a good teammate," Briggs said about Fulton, who was clocking low 4.3s in the 40 at combines this summer before his injury. "He helped the kids that were playing his position and was a positive influence on the team rather than being a negative influence."
"It really wasn't how I planned on starting my season," said Fulton, who recorded 43 tackles, 16 pass breakups and eight interceptions as a junior. "But I'm back, and I'm pretty much at a hundred percent."
Before the season started, the four-star recruit promised a state championship for Manning.
"When you have a guy like John that says a statement like that, he's not being arrogant, he's saying that from the heart and he's good enough to back it up," Briggs said.
With an 8-3 record, Manning has advanced to the second round of the playoffs and one step closer to the title game. Since he's been back, Fulton has scored five touchdowns.
As of Oct. 30, Fulton is averaging 27 yards a kickoff return and 21 yards a punt return. Last season on special teams, Fulton returned a combined seven kickoff and punt returns for scores; he has come close to returning a kick this season, but hasn't made it into the end zone yet. He hasn't made any interceptions either, but Briggs points to the fact that opposing teams have learned their lesson and don't throw to where Fulton is on the field.
Briggs says that he thinks Fulton's game is powerful now, and he still has "light years ahead of him" to grow.
"He's more of a straight-line player," he said. "Alright, I need you to cover him, bam, it's done, you can forget about it. I need you to do this kickoff return, it's done. But when he gets to Alabama or Florida, wherever he's going to go to, he's got a little bit more to develop mentally as far as the total aspect of coverages."
ESPN's Scouts Inc.'s evaluation back up his coach's assessment: "Overall, Fulton has a very good blend of size, physicality, makeup speed and savvy. Has been coached well and should adjust quickly both mentally and physically to the next level. Should also be a great special teams performer adding to his upside."
Fulton is planning to enroll in college early, and it's important to him that his father be with him when he commits to a school.
"He's going to try to come back in the middle of December," the Under Armour All-American said. "But if he doesn't, I know that he just wants the best for me."
In case his father won't be able to come back to South Carolina for a few days, they are trying to make sure there is a live video stream of the announcement as a backup plan.
Fulton's father is scheduled to come home from his tour in April. Briggs says that Fulton has handled his father's deployment and his ankle injury with maturity and has kept a positive attitude through it all.
"The blessing of the whole thing is that he's going to go continue to play four or five more years at least at the collegiate level so his dad, it's not like he's never going to see him play again," Briggs said.
Julie Turner is a recruiting editor for ESPN.com.